Education Montana Politics Ryan Zinke US Politics

Congressman Zinke Votes to Saddle Young Americans with Billions More Debt

Yesterday, Congressman Zinke took to the Internet to talk to people via Google Hangouts and Twitter about his priorities in Congress. While the session was hardly filled with critical constituents, one question, actually asked by a former student, stood out to me:

Zinke’s response to Miriam was typical talking point bluster. He responded by telling her that we need to cut “red tape” and that “young people need the same opportunity” as he had. Throughout the event, Zinke kept hammering at the debt, suggesting that it was the most important issue facing the country and young Americans in particular.

One little problem, though. On Tuesday, Representative Zinke voted to increase the debt by $246-$269 billion dollars over the next decade by repealing the estate tax. His vote was to protect the wealthiest of the wealthiest in the United States, as the Joint Committee on Taxation notes that about two out of every 1,000 estates in the country will owe federal estate taxes in 2013. The exemption for an individual estate is 5.43 million dollars, and even after 5.43 million dollars there are so many loopholes in place that few estates of that size pay the tax. Today, the estate tax is only paid by the super rich, and not even by many of them.

You might be tempted to think, as Zinke suggests, that abolishing the estate tax is designed to protect Montana family farms. That’s simply untrue. In the entire country in 2013, only 120 farms and small businesses had to pay the estate tax. Not in Montana, but in the entire country.

Dana Millbank perhaps best explained the values embodied in this tax cut:

And this at a time when the gap between rich and poor is already worse than it has been since the Great Depression? Never in the history of plutocracy has so much been given away to so few who need it so little. This is the ultimate perversion of the tea party movement, which began as a populist revolt in 2009 but has since been hijacked by wealthy and corporate interests. The estate tax has been part of American law in some form since 1797, according to the advocacy group Americans for Tax Fairness, a shield against the sort of permanent aristocracy our founders fought to rid themselves of.

Finally, it’s worth remembering the context in which Zinke voted for this cut. A few weeks ago, he voted for a draconian Republican budget that would slash Pell Grant and food stamp funding, cut disease research, and privatize Medicare—all in the name of budget reductions. While Zinke is willing to cut college assistance for Montana students who are struggling to make tuition payments today, he simply cannot bear the plight of a rich socialite who might have to forego a shopping spree or two. That’s class warfare, you see.

Asking the government to continue a tax system designed in part to curtail an American aristocracy at a time when the gap between those with wealth and those without is growing beyond even our ability to understand it is something Congressman Zinke will not abide. Poor kids not going to college or having enough to eat, though?

Totally fine for a Congressman who pretends to care about young people and the nation’s debt.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • The other terrible thing about this estate tax vote is that it throws the budget that Zinke voted for out of balance. The balanced budget was based on having the same amount of tax revenues as we do now, not a $269 billion tax cut. If Republicans really wanted to balance the budget and get rid of the estate tax, they’d need even deeper cuts to safety net programs.

    Zinke can’t pretend to support a balanced budget if he’s already voted to throw the budget out of balance by giving away tax cuts to the top 0.2%

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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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