Maybe Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are angling for the endorsement of the Seattle Times next time they’re up for election. They are certainly not working for most of the citizens in Washington State when they voted last week to raise the Federal estate tax exemption for the very wealthy.
Senators Murray and Cantwell joined forces with all 41 Republicans and 8 other Democrats in a Senate vote that would remove $91 billion over ten years from the Federal budget. As the blog Working Life said, “Ten Senate Democrats Lose Their Minds, Vote for Estate Tax Cut”
“Now, c’mon, this is entirely absurd. We already have the widest gap between rich and poor in many generations. Republicans (and some Democrats) are trying to cut the Administration’s proper and wise investments in infrastructure and wise energy efficiency programs. And, in the midst of all that, the Senate does what? Votes to cut the estate tax (which effects only the richest Americans) thanks to the votes of ten Senate Democrats. This is the definition of insanity.”
As the New York Times notes today in an editorial entitled “Guarding the Family Fortune” :
“…as the unemployment rate hit a 25-year high and nearly one in 10 Americans was receiving food stamps, 10 Democrats in the Senate joined all 41 Republican senators to cut estate taxes for the wealthiest families….With economic pain and suffering on the rise, how do the senators justify a big tax cut for multimillionaires?”
Who are the other Senators joining this Reagan/ Bush era philosophy of trickle down economics – that you can’t do enough to help the wealthy because they keep the county growing? They are Senators Lincoln Blanche (Arkansas), Max Baucus (Montana), John Tester (Montana), Evan Bayh (Indiana), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Bill Nelson (Florida), and Mark Pryor (Arkansas).
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorites states:
“This proposal is both fiscally irresponsible — it would pave the way for a significant increase in long-term deficits and debt — and unnecessary to protect small businesses and farms, nearly all of which are already exempt from the tax under the 2009 estate tax rules, which President Obama has proposed to extend. The amendment also would lead to significant reductions in charitable contributions, while benefiting only the wealthiest 0.28 percent of estates.”
As the NY Times editorial cited above states:
“Under today’s estate tax, which is retained in both the House version of the budget and in President Obama’s version, 99.8 percent of estates will never owe any estate tax. That’s because the tax applies only to estates that exceed $7 million per couple or $3.5 million for individuals, and a vast majority of American families are not and never will be that wealthy. “
It seems to me that Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell are missing the larger picture. Washington State voters recently voted to retain the state estate tax to help fund schools. With the increased concentration of wealth in a very small percentage of the population, it’s time for the wealthy to give back some of the money they made thanks to benefits of the US economic system that made it possible. After all, they can’t spend it after they’re dead. But they can do whatever they want with it while they’re living.