by Max Brantley
The latest Rolling Stone has a fine article (sorry, only a portion is on-line) by Michael Crowley about the effort by the country's richest families to roll back or eliminate the estate tax -- a windfall in the billions if successful.
You know where I'm going. Yes, of course, Sen. Blanche Lincoln comes in for a dose of shaming in the reporting for her work for super-rich who stand to gain the most. (A $30 billion windfall for the Waltons. Lesser but substantial amounts for Stephenses, Anthonys, Dillardses, Hunts, Tysons, etc.)
On April 1st, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a state with the nation's third-lowest median income, sponsored a budget amendment that would sharply reduce taxes on the estates of multimillionaires after they die. Estates worth up to $7 million per couple, and $3.5 million for individuals, are already exempt from taxes — meaning that 99.75 percent of all Americans die without paying a dime to Uncle Sam. But Lincoln's proposal would raise the exemption to $10 million — and slash the tax rate on even larger estates from 45 percent to 35 percent. All told, the move would let the children of Wall Street barons, dot-com millionaires and wealthy industrialists pocket more than $90 billion in tax revenues over the next decade.
Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, was furious at Lincoln's move, calling it "so stunning, so outrageous that some would choose this hour of national crisis to push for an amendment to slash the estate tax for the superwealthy." Yet the tax cut passed with 51 votes — including 10 Democrats.
A few weeks later, during negotiations to reconcile the Senate's budget with the one passed by the House, the tax cut was undone. But the battle over the "death tax," as Republicans have shrewdly labeled it, is just beginning — and it involves one of the best-funded and most effective lobbying operations that Washington has ever seen.