Yesterday, the House voted to repeal the estate tax, with the vote falling largely along party lines (you can view the roll call for this vote here). The measure now awaits action in the Senate.
Though panned by its detractors as a ‘death tax’ that will devastate small family farms and businesses, the tax only impacts estates worth at least $5.4 million for an individual and $10.8 million for married couples. This effectively results in only 0.2% of deaths triggering the tax. Furthermore, most of the wealth that is being taxed is in the form of “unrealized capital gains” and has never been subject to any prior taxation. Repealing the estate tax would be a disastrous move, as it would further exacerbate the country’s growing economic inequality by concentrating enormous amounts of wealth in the hands of very few.
Smart Capitalists Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s have recently criticized the proposed repeal in a USA Today op-ed. In it they argue that the richest Americans hardly need such a handout when they already possess as much wealth as the remaining 90% of the population. They also contend that instead of hoarding their fortunes even after death, affluent Americans should contribute to the system from which they benefited so substantially and guarantee that future generations may do the same.
Ben and Jerry wrote:
“Good grief, Congress. Are you really going to give another tax break to those of us who need it least?
Yes, we’re witty and created a successful global brand. Yes, we’re handsome and in demand for selfie shots in malls and village squares around the country. And yes, we’re wealthy, thanks to the good fortune of our efforts — but also because of many other societal factors that contributed to our wealth.
But these are not good reasons for the tax cut nutters in Congress to abolish the estate tax, a levy paid exclusively by multi-millionaires and billionaires. In late March, the Senate voted 54-46, basically along party lines, to deep six the tax. The House intends to vote by April 15 to repeal the estate tax, which has been in place for a century to prevent the U.S. from developing an aristocracy.
Okay, who really pays the estate tax? Obviously, a lot of wealthy campaign contributors. Who else could get anything to pass in this pay-to-play Congress?”
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