This afternoon, the House of Representatives approved a measure to repeal the estate tax in a 240 to 179 vote. This vote fell largely along party lines with 233 Republicans and 7 Democrats voting for repeal and 176 Democrats and 3 Republicans voting against. You can view the roll call to see how your Representative voted on this measure here.
The "Death Tax Repeal Act" must now be considered in the Senate, where it will likely face greater scrutiny. Earlier this week, the White House came out strongly in opposition to the estate tax repeal and President Obama has threatened to veto the measure should it reach his desk. In the event of approval in the Senate and a veto from the Obama administration, both chambers of Congress would have to override it with two-thirds support.
As the vote was occuring, Newsday published an op-ed from Patriotic Millionaires Chair Morris Pearl, who slammed the repeal of the estate tax as "a return to an aristocratic elite that was rejected by the American Revolution."
"One thing that makes America great is that we don't have a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power, like that depicted in Downton Abbey -- the popular British TV show. We fought a revolution to reject that system. But that victory is in jeopardy today, as a vote to repeal the estate tax is planned in Congress.
Some American billionaires started legendary businesses. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, to name a few, have created whole industries that have enabled untold numbers of people to live the American dream, raise their children comfortably, and retire securely.
This is a good thing. This is the America where hard work, intellect, and a bit of luck can lead to success. That is what enabled me to grow up in a little farming community upstate, go to college with government loans and a few decades later retire at 55 as a managing director with the largest financial management firm in the world. As a result, my children are starting off in their careers unburdened by financial obligations, and they will someday inherit a substantial estate.
Other American billionaires are people like John, Jacqueline and Forrest Mars who are each worth tens of billions of dollars thanks to a candy business that their grandfather, Frank Mars, started in 1911. Or Christy, Jim, Alice and Rob Walton, who each own tens of billion of dollars worth of stock in Walmart, started by Sam Walton in 1962. But the Mars and Walton heirs are involved neither in day-to-day management nor in active "job creation."
It is these inherited billionaires and their children who will benefit most from the proposed repeal of the federal estate tax, a levy on the transfer of immense wealth from generation to generation."
Smart Captialists, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, also slammed repeal in an op-ed published in USA Today. They wrote that "instead of abolishing the estate tax and pandering to billionaire campaign contributors, lawmakers should get back to the people's business. Wages have been stagnant for decades. Young people are carrying around anvils on their backs called student debt. Our public infrastructure is falling apart...The success of our business depends on having prosperous customers. If our customers are hurting, then we are hurting. It is not in our business interest to allow this polarization of income and wealth to continue."
The Patriotic Millionaires stand staunchly opposed to repealing the estate tax and will continue to apply pressure to the White House encouraging their veto and on the Senate in the lead up to their vote on this legislation.