Sunday, August 07, 2005


Sympathy for Small Business or Pay Back for the Mega-Wealthy?

Sue is currently traveling the highways and byways of the 19th Congressional District, letting small business people know that she is in DC fighting for them according to this press release.

But in a major non sequitor for our region, she, in the same breath and the same press release, extols her pride that she is co-sponsoring a bill that would "permanently block the return of the death tax in 2011". This bill passed the House and is currently in the Senate for consideration.

Sue says the "death tax" (which we all - including the IRS - knew as the "estate tax" until the Republican propaganda machine got hold of it) "especially hurts family farms and family-owned businesses."

Unfortunately for Sue (and for us, if her efforts for repeal are successful) that simply is not true. According to the Congressional Research Service, only about 5% of farmers and 3% of business owners dying in 2002 paid any estate tax. In fact, the estate tax will never directly impact Americans in the bottom 99% (guess what, that's almost everyone!).

So, one wonders, exactly whom is Sue helping?

The estate tax law in its current form applies to the estates of deceased people worth over $1.5 million - limiting its coverage to the richest one percent. And, although critics denounce the maximum tax rate of 47%, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that after deductions and exclusions, this levy taxes those few taxable estates at an average rate of 20%. In addition, heirs avoid income tax on the sale of any assets in the estate up to the fair market value of the assets on the date of death.

Therefore, under permanent estate tax repeal, which Sue proudly supports and has been instrumental in getting passed in the House, the federal government would lose approximately $1 trillion in the first decade alone, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Is Sue irresponsibly transferring $1 trillion to her mega-wealthy friends instead of helping small business cope with the health care needs of their employees and the necessary infrastructure maintenance and upgrades needed to keep our region - and the US - attractive to business? What could she be thinking?

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