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More on the Estate Tax

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When such esteemed sources as the Missoulian editorial board have already regurgitated Republican talking points on the issue, it seems fruitless to carry on the debate, but I shall try.

What does The Economist say about the estate tax?

IT DOESN'T IMPACT FAMILY FARMS OR SMALL BUSINESSES

This is nonsense. A study by the Congressional Budget Office shows that in 2000 (ie, before the recent evisceration) only 1,659 farms and 485 small business were liable for the estate tax, almost all of which had sufficient liquid assets to pay it. The rest can stretch their tax payments over many years.

WEALTH IS INCREASINGLY CONCENTRATED IN THE HANDS OF A FEW, AND THE TAX COULD HELP SOLVE THE SOCIAL SECURITY MESS

The eve of the baby-boomers' retirement seems an odd time to abandon a small, but significant, source of tax revenue. If the tax permanently raised 0.3% of GDP, for instance, it would fix about half the hole in Social Security, the public pension plan. And with income becoming ever more concentrated among America's richest—since 1980, the share of overall income going to the top 1% has doubled from 8% to 16%—it seems an odd time to abandon the country's most progressive tax.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT LIKED THE IDEA

It was introduced, in part, to avoid excessive concentrations of wealth, a rationale now barely mentioned in the debate. Teddy Roosevelt argued that the transmission of vast fortunes between generations threatened to create a permanent aristocracy and, moreover, ruined the characters of the undeserving heirs.

HEY, WHY NOT HELP THE MIDDLE CLASS, WITH PRODUCTIVE INVESTMENT?

If America wants to maximise national saving, it should keep the tax and reduce the budget deficit. If productive investment is the aim, what about eliminating the mortgage-interest deduction, the vast subsidy that encourages Americans to buy houses rather than invest in productive assets? That would also raise revenue and even make the tax code fairer. Sounds like a winner, except in a country where spin and prejudice drive the debate.

Postscript: If Coobs calls The Economist liberal, I'm not liable for my actions.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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