Since our country’s founding, dynastic wealth has threatened to upend the democratic principles promoted in the constitution. The influence of money in politics was first seen in the three-fifths compromise, and its pervasive nature has not been fully challenged since. Tax Day provides us with a moment to reflect on how our democracy is funded, and with the ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, the danger of a plutocracy working to lower their tax liability looms larger than ever before. The estate tax, a tax on inheritances in the millions of dollars, is the one safeguard against a modern landed gentry– and Republicans have weakened it.
While the weakening of the estate tax was included in the GOP tax bill along with various individual tax cuts for the working and middle class, the real winners are those with incomes in the seven figures range. By doubling the threshold to qualify for the estate tax, millionaires and billionaires are financially better off at the expense of the working and middle classes. Their lower tax rates not only means the deficit is being ignored, but also added to at an alarming rate. In order to give greater inheritances to a small minority of already wealthy-past-necessity children, we are borrowing on the futures of everyone in the middle and working classes. It doesn’t make sense for the party of “blue-collar workers” to advocate for the handing down of enormous wealth, and here’s why:
Republicans would improve access to opportunities and promote American entrepreneurship by increasing taxes on vast estates (much of which consists of unrealized capital gains). This revenue could be used to update infrastructure, public transit, and public education. All three are drivers of entrepreneurship and would boost competition, both of which are at the heart of capitalism. Instead, the GOP wants to give the children of Walmart and Amazon entrepreneurs unfettered access to their parents’ wealth. The continued, uninterrupted growth of such corporations and the pockets of the families behind them would make monopolies inevitable.
In this way, Republicans want to have it both ways. They want to boast capitalist mantras and hold up small businesses as the backbone of the nation, while also allowing large corporations to gorge industries to the extent that newcomers, generation after generation, have no chance. The continued influence and increased financial reach of an ever-shrinking number of families will be the death of diversity of thought and business ownership within the United States, and the GOP sold it to American families for an average of $31 in savings a week. If this seems like a fair trade to you, remember that, thus far, the Waltons have skipped out on $3 billion in estate taxes, with billions more projected in the future. It’s clear the working class got the shaft.
Yesterday on Tax Day, Trump and his cronies attempted to pat themselves on the back for saving you, the working-class, a few bucks every week. When they touted the school secretary that can afford a Costco card after a year of saving $1.50 a week, they assumed that knowing after 52 weeks you can afford a membership card would appease their base. All the while, the Trump, Walton, and Mnuchin children get new yachts and greater access to political power. Because of last year’s tax bill, our tax code’s only provision to slow America’s progression into a plutocracy is on its last legs. We should amplify this message in the wake of Tax Day, and everyday until the tax scam is reversed.