- - Monday, April 20, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The House of Representatives approved legislation last week to abolish the death tax, and the vote was not close — 240 to 179. Democrats joined Republicans for the first vote on the death tax in nearly a decade. This is an issue that must come up every year until the tax is killed permanently and decisively until it is graveyard dead.

The death tax is a job killer, an anti-family measure that enables a privileged few to avoid personal consequences, some to buy distressed family-owned businesses at bargain basement prices after the death of a patriarch or matriarch leaves the surviving heirs desperate for the cash to pay the tax.

The Democrats like the death tax. They see it as an attack on privilege, on the robber barons of the late 19th century who amassed fortunes on the backs of the poor, the immigrants and the desperate. Many defenders of the death tax regard it as revenge against those who wronged their forebears. It’s crucial to the success of the politics of envy. The super rich can employ regiments of accountants and lawyers to set up fallout shelters for their accumulated wealth, defending it from the tax collector. Since they’re not paying their “fair share,” they can afford to pose with the poor.

Those who actually pay the unfair share are the Americans of the middle class — the men and women who run small businesses, operate family farms, and engage in other profit-making ventures that are asset rich and cash poor. Their money is often not in the bank, or in bonds or on Wall Street because the money is usually in the farm or business they’re trying to protect. When they die the tax man is standing nearby with his hand out for his unfair share.

Complete and permanent repeal of the death tax, currently the fourth-highest in the industrialized world, would give the U.S. economy, which is still recovering from the “great recession,” a much needed kick in the pants. The Tax Foundation says repeal would create more than 100,000 new jobs, increase U.S. capital stock by more than 2 percent and lead to an increase in federal revenues.

Having passed the House, repeal is now in the Senate, where Harry Reid stands like a gravedigger, leaning on his shovel, waiting to dispatch the dreams and fortunes of the middle class. Mr. Reid is only the minority leader now, but he is clever and capable of outsmarting the Republicans who are only now learning to be in charge. The Republicans should force the repeal to the floor, making President Obama and the Democrats make their case to a skeptical public. Jim Martin, director of the advocacy group 60 Plus, has the right idea. “The time is now to end it, not mend it.”

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