THE BLOG

The Evil of Estate Tax Repeal: Nordic dream, American Nightmare

06/05/2006 07:19 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Remember the "American Dream?" 
I used to believe in it too.  Turns out we were all being naïve--at
least insofar as the last half century is concerned.  Why am I
writing about this today?  Because Congress is readying itself to
make everything worse by repealing the estate tax.

Consider what you'd have learned if you'd read the (conservative) Economist magazine last week:

I'm afraid, that the "Nordic Dream"--or even the "British Dream" is a more realistic one than the much cherished "American Dream.  This is true at nearly every level of society.  Overall,  according to two separate studies based on a set of   data collected beginning in the 1950s, Nordic countries score around 0.2 for sons, Britain scores 0.36, and America 0.54 (meaning that a son's earnings are more closely related to his father's in America, and almost not at all in the Nordic nations).  But it is at the bottom rung where the failure of the American system is most profoundly apparent. 

In the Nordic nations, for instance, three-quarters of those on welfare
had moved up and out of the system by the time they reached in their
forties but barely more than half of their American counterparts
had.  As the editors of the conservative Economist magazine put
it, "In other words, Nordic countries have almost completely snapped
the link between the earnings of parents and children at and near the
bottom. That is not at all true of America." In Britain, too, fully
seventy percent of those enmeshed in the welfare system had moved out
within a single generation, again--a higher percentage than in America.
The magazine points to the generous tax and welfare provisions for
families as "The obvious explanation for greater mobility in the Nordic
countries...  which (especially when compared with America's)
deliberately try to help the children of the poor to do better than
their parents. [i]

Now take a look at what I learned from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, here.

Estate
tax repeal will likely cost $1 trillion in the first decade alone, and
compare that amount to other priorities.  For example, in light of
the controversy this week over cuts in homeland security funding for a
number of communities, it is worth noting that the annual revenue loss
from repealing the estate tax is roughly the same as total federal
spending on homeland security nationwide.

  • The number of estates subject to tax is small and shrinking rapidly under current law -- from more than 50,000 in 2000 to fewer than 13,000 in 2006 to about 7,000 in 2009.

Phony "compromise" proposals are being pushed by some who favor repeal to attract moderate Republicans and Democrats.  The leading such "compromises" proposed by Senator Kyl or Senator Baucus would cost almost as much as full repeal, according to the Tax Policy Center, though the former is a bit worse than the latter.

  • If the tax is frozen at its 2009 level instead of repealed, only the wealthiest three out of every 1,000 estates would owe any tax at all.

  • If Congress were to opt for the Kyl or Baucus proposals instead of freezing the tax at its 2009 level, all of the additional tax-cut benefits would go to the wealthiest 0.3 percent of estates (those worth more than $7 million for a couple).
  • All of this, meanwhile, will further separate the wealthy from the rest of us, and hasten the creation of class-driven/anti-opportunity society where democracy has become all but impossible to practice.  I keep saying this over and over, these people are purposely destroying everything of value in this country; and media are just watching.

    For more, go here.

    Hooray for Harper's sez I, in the Guardian's "Comment is Free."

    "Thank you sir, May I have another?"

    But Mr. Bush, led by Ms. Rice, is taking a significant risk.  He must hold together countries that bitterly broke with the United States three years ago on Iraq.  And now, he seems acutely aware that part of his legacy may depend on his ability to prevent Iran from emerging as a nuclear power in the Middle East, without again resorting to military force.

    What crap.  More of the same crap here

    "Yet some Washington veterans detect

    signs of a tentative new willingness by the administration to heed the
    advice of others rather than sticking stubbornly to its position. 
    Just this week, under pressure from European allies and U.S. foreign
    policy elders, the administration reversed itself and agreed to join
    talks with Iran if it suspends nuclear activities.  And last week,
    Bush temporarily sealed documents seized from a congressman's office in
    response to complaints from Capitol Hill."  This too,
    is comical, unless "dissenter" means, well, I actually, can't figure
    out what the heck it would have to mean to make any sense here.

    Haditha is the cover of Time and Newsweek.

    Everybody read Navasky's CUNY Commencement here.

    And because we are soon to be colleagues on the CUNY School of Journalism faculty, it is not really worth it to me to tell you what I think of this, but you can imagine....

    The New York Times pays for its Wen Ho Lee coverage, literally.

    Too funny for words.

    Another dead Dead keyboardist, here.  Oy, that makes four out of five.