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Monday, June 19, 2006

The Lie of the Anti-Estate Tax Democrats

A week and a half ago, Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas took to the Senate floor to decry the estate tax as unfair. "I, for one, intend to fight for these family businesses, fight for these communities and fight for these jobs in rural America," she preached. It was all very moving. Especially if you stand to inherit an enormous fortune.

That same day, Lincoln again appeared on the Senate floor, this time to decry the lack of funding for federal anti-hunger programs. This too was unfair. Lincoln was particularly nonplused by the counter-argument that there was insufficient money for such programs.

"I understand our current budget constraints. I know we all do," she said, "Yet I didn't create this mess."

Oh, you didn't? Let's look at the main causes of the budget mess. There's the 2001 tax cuts. Lincoln voted for those. There's the war in Iraq. Lincoln voted for that too. There's the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which she likewise supported. Other than that, how did you like the budget, Mrs. Lincoln?

Lord knows I'm no fan of Republican fiscal policy. But at least Republicans pretend they have some vague future intention of slashing the hundreds of billions of dollars from the budget it would take to balance out their tax cuts, even if everybody knows it will never happen. Anti-estate tax Democrats such as Lincoln, on the other hand, don't even have the charade of fake spending cuts to hide behind.

They want to spend money on the poor because they're compassionate. They want to spend money on the military because they're hawkish. They want to cut taxes for the middle and working class because they're populist (Lincoln has passionately endorsed expanding the child tax credit for working-class families). And they also want to cut taxes for the super-rich because they're … um, help me out here. Oh, right — they want to help the poor family farms and small businesses that are ruined by the estate tax.

In reality, any sentient person could tell you that the populist arguments against the estate tax are hokum. Under current law, every individual will soon be able to pass on $3.5 million to his heirs tax-free. That's $7 million per couple before a single dollar of taxes kicks in. And this assumes zero estate planning; any competent lawyer can shelter a whole lot more than that. Even among the tiny percentage of estates that pay inheritance tax, the effective rate is under 20%.--------------

read the rest here...

The Lie of the Anti-Estate Tax Democrats

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