by Max Brantley
The New York Times is back again on the estate tax, which Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor desperately want to reduce (they prefer repeal, but it's not currently an option).
The editorial notes that, under existing law, only 100 estates in the whole United States would owe taxes in 2011. You can be sure all of them have made provisions to pay the bill through trusts, planned giving, insurance, ready cash, etc. The question for Lincoln, Pryor and eight other Democrats who favor cutting the existing rate dramatically, thus producing a windfall to the super rich (it would be worth hundreds of millions, eventually billions, to stalwart Lincoln supporters in the Walton clan):
Last week, 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. The provision would funnel an additional $91 billion over 10 years to the heirs of megafortunes, money that would otherwise have been paid in federal taxes or donated to charity.
With economic pain and suffering on the rise, how do the senators justify a big tax cut for multimillionaires? By asserting that an estate tax cut is just what struggling Americans need.