Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson
is critical of Republican efforts to abolish estate taxes, which are imposed on estates of more than $5.43 million, with a top federal rate of 40 percent.
"Maybe congressional Republicans really are nuts, suicidal or both," he writes. "The chances of this soon becoming law are slim. . . . Meanwhile, they've handed Democrats a priceless campaign gift: a made-for-TV (and Internet) video depicting Republicans as lackeys of the rich."
The tax is barely relevant, Samuelson argues. "It affects almost no one. In 2013, 2,596,993 Americans died, but there were only 4,687 taxable estate returns filed. That's 0.18 percent of deaths."
Of course, that lessens the significance of repealing the tax too.
"The truth is that the estate tax has become a political ping-pong ball, whose symbolism — for liberals and conservatives — dwarfs its economic significance," Samuelson explains.
Stephen Moore, distinguished visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, is none too enamored with death taxes.
"If there were ever a right time to eliminate the estate tax in America, it is right now," he writes in The Washington Times
"The latest tax collection data make an overwhelmingly persuasive case for abolishing the most immoral and counterproductive of all federal taxes."
The amount of revenue raised by estate taxes is trivial — $12.7 billion in 2013, or 0.5 percent of total federal tax revenue. And the total is falling to boot — 46 percent since 2001.
"The major propeller of growth in a nation is that one generation after another leaves wealth to the next," Moore states. "This makes societies richer over time as trillions of dollars of wealth are passed to children and grandchildren."
Moreover, "the higher the tax rate the less the incentive for wealth creation in the first place," he says. "The incentive is to die broke, in which case future generations get nothing, but the government gets shut out too. This is called a lose-lose for everyone."
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