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    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Why You Should Care About The Estate Tax

    From this week's Talk of the Town:

    The war’s political managers have made absolutely no effort to create even a simulacrum of equal sacrifice, and 9/11 did nothing to change what has been from the beginning, and remains, the Bush Administration’s top priority, not excluding fighting terrorism: the use of the tax code to transfer wealth to the rich and, especially, the superrich. Next week, even as the national debt grows by another $11 billion and military recruiters scramble with ever-mounting desperation to fill their quotas, the Senate will reassemble to take up the proposal, already passed by the House, to permanently eliminate the estate tax, thereby shifting some $1.5 billion a week—about the same as the Iraq war—from the public treasury to the bank accounts of the heirs to the nation’s twenty thousand biggest fortunes.

    I want to thank the always-on-the-ball Hendrik Hertzberg for drawing attention, in the midst of all this other chaos, to an issue that conservatives (and some moderate Democrats) think they'll be able to scoot past our view while we keep one eye on Iraq and the other on New Orleans: the estate tax. The repeal of this tax would cost our country about $75 billion a year and an extra $23 billion in interest (calculations vary by research, but it is substantial).

    John S. Irons and Robert Gordon list a few things we could do with that $:

    •Prevent the proposed $10 billion in cuts to Medicaid included in the 2005 budget;

    •Replace the Army's 10,000 Humvees that rely on improvised shielding with armored vehicles;

    •Offer help with job search and retraining, similar to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, to all unemployed workers;

    •Offer progressive saving incentives of $500 per year, on top of Social Security, to 50 million families.

    What's more, a married couple could still leave a cool, tax-free $3 million to their kids. So, if you think this might impact your inheritance or what you wish to leave to your children or loved ones, you're most likely wrong. It will effect only the wealthiest 1% that die within one year.

    There are some senators on the fence- Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, Oregon's Ron Wyden, Montana's Max Baucus and Indiana's Evan Bayh, Arizona's John McCain and Ohio's George Voinovich and lobbyists are hitting them hard.

    This isn't completely a partisan issue; even RedState.org, a well-known Republican blog, finds supporters of the estate tax.

    In an editorial in The Capital Times,it is made plain as Hertzberg:

    At a point when the federal deficit is approaching record levels, when the fiscal demands of the Iraq occupation are expanding exponentially, and when the Bush administration is telling Americans that little or nothing can be done to address the nation's health care crisis or fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act's education spending requirements, this would seem by any logical measure to be precisely the wrong time to enact legislation that it is generally agreed would cost the United States $1 trillion in tax revenues over the next decade.

    I would add that is especially egregious given the tremendous costs of rebuilding the devastated South.


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