FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Help for Struggling Millionaires is on the Way

Photo by Timothy Krause | CC BY 2.0

It isn’t easy being a millionaire these days, especially if you’ve got less than $20 million. Fortunately, Congress is watching out for you.

Yes, the Republican tax cut bonanza targets lower end millionaires for special relief. Now those struggling to scrape by with $15 million or $20 million can breathe more easily. And even lowly billionaires will be able to keep more of their wealth.

Why? Because Congress just increased the amount of wealth exempted by the estate tax, our nation’s only levy on inherited wealth.

In the bad old days, a family had to have $11 million in wealth before they were subject to the tax. This exempted the 99.8 percent of undisciplined taxpayers who, in the words of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, had squandered their wealth on “booze, women, and movies.”

Now no family with less than $22 million will pay it (or individuals with less than $10.9 million). This gift to “grateful heirs” will cost $83 billion over the next decade.

Gutting the estate tax is a bad idea — it raises substantial revenue from those with the greatest capacity to pay. Even in a weakened state, it would have raised over $260 billion over the next decade.

The estate tax was established a century ago during the first Gilded Age, a period of grotesque inequality. Champions of establishing a tax on inherited wealth included President Theodore Roosevelt and industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who viewed it as a brake on the concentration of wealth and power.

Modern Republicans, however, paint the tyrannical “death tax” as an unfair penalty on small businesses and family farmers. But that’s a myth.

The most vocal champion of estate tax repeal is Rep. Kristi Noem, a South Dakota Republican who became the GOP poster child for farmers touched by the estate tax. House Speaker Paul Ryan appointed her on the tax conference committee to advocate for estate tax repeal because of her compelling story.

Noem says her family was subject to the tax after her father died in a farm accident in 1994, a story she repeats constantly.

The only problem, as journalists recently discovered, is that her family paid the tax only because of a fluke in South Dakota law that was changed in 1995. Her experience has little to do with the federal estate tax, which has been substantially scaled down in recent decades.

And while Noem was complaining about government taxes, the family ranch has collected over $3.7 million in taxpayer funded farm subsidies since 1995.

Noem attacked the reporting as “fake news,” even though it was based on legal documents she filed herself.

The reality is that the small number of estate tax beneficiaries aren’t farmers at all. They’re mostly wealthy city dwellers.

Still, the fact that the estate tax lives on creates an opportunity to make it better.

Lawmakers should institute a graduated rate structure, so that billionaires pay a higher estate tax rate than families with a “mere” $22 million. And loopholes should be closed so they can’t pay wealth managers to hide their wealth in complicated trusts and offshore tax havens.

Estate tax revenue could be dedicated to something that clearly expands opportunity for everyone else.

Bill Gates Sr. argues that the estate tax should fund “a GI bill for the next generation.” In exchange for military and community service, young adults should be able to get substantial tuition assistance for higher education or vocational training, paid for by a progressive estate tax.

If Congress were concerned about the middle class, that’s the kind of proposal that would become the law of the land.

More articles by:

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
George Ochenski
Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections in Another cCollaboration Failure
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail