Despite Republican claims that higher taxes will be the death of us all, a group of the nation’s millionaires and billionaires is petitioning Congress to raise the estate tax even higher than the rate President Obama is targeting.
As reported by The National Journal, the aptly-titled Responsible Wealth, a project of United for a Fair Economy, was joined by former Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, a Clinton appointee, George Soros, and Warren Buffet in the move, which urges every member of Congress to expand the nation’s estate tax – the tax levied on personal holdings when the owner has died.
The estate tax was reduced dramatically between 2002 and 2009 as part of the Bush tax cuts, and eliminated altogether, briefly, in 2010. As of last year it stood with a top rate of 35 percent, but exempted the first $5 million in assets, an even better deal than the 2009 rates. Responsible Wealth is calling for the rate to go up to 45 percent with the first $2 million in assets exempted, as compared to President Obama’s proposed $3.5 million exemption cut-off. According to the number crunchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, that change would raise an estimated $276 billion by 2020.
Historically, the tax has been a pillar of any progressive tax system, helping to curb perpetual inherited wealth from concentrating in the hands of a few families. Republicans, of course, oppose the estate tax in general, viewing it as a threat to the preferred oligarchy, claiming that it’s an unnecessary drain on the economy, one that threatens small business and farmers. Once again, though, the Tax Policy Center refutes this claim, going so far as to show that only 8,600 people would leave estates large enough to trigger the tax in 2011, for a total of less than 50 small businesses and farms. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s preliminary numbers, 2,513,171 Americans died in 2011. That means Republicans are, once again, fighting against a tax raise that would only affect the top .003 percent while simultaneously threatening to kill Social Security and Medicare under the guise of protecting Americans.