THE BLOG

Repealing the Estate Tax Is Wrong for America

04/15/2015 05:31 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2015

This week House Republicans plan to add $269 billion to our debt by repealing the estate tax. While there are certain tax solutions, like the R&D tax credit, that I support that boost the economy and have a large economic multiplier, the estate tax is not one of them. Repealing the estate tax won't create jobs, it won't boost GDP and it won't add efficiency to the market. Instead, repealing the estate tax will simply add to the debt, hurt our ability to build a stronger economy and worsen economic inequality.

It is hard to look at this vote and not think that Congress is focusing on the wrong things. We already spend too few days in Congress working on meaningful legislation; we simply can't afford to waste more time on legislation that doesn't move the needle to improve the lives of everyday Americans. Whether you're a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, it is clear that we've got big problems that we need to address, starting with making our economy more competitive so that we can create more good-paying jobs for the middle class.

It is important to note that only a very tiny subset of the wealthiest families need to worry about paying the estate tax. The estate tax affects around only 5,500 households each year and an individual must be worth well over $5 million before they pay even a dime of the tax.

I believe it is important that I speak out against this misguided legislation. I've been fortunate to live the American Dream. I grew up in a blue collar family in a working class neighborhood. My dad was a union electrician. My parents didn't earn a lot of money or have the chance to go to college, but with help from scholarships, I was able to get an education and have a rewarding career as an entrepreneur. I will have to pay the estate tax when I leave an inheritance to my children. That's not a bad thing; the estate tax encourages wealthy individuals to donate to charity.

Instead of serving special interests, Congress should focus on the big picture. Globalization and technology have completely reshaped our economy in recent decades and if we don't respond, we're putting the future of the middle class at risk. To my view, this means investing in the future by upgrading our infrastructure, supporting science, research and education and restoring our fiscal health.

To throw away $269 billion with a complete repeal is particularly troubling given the current state of our country's infrastructure, investments which Congress has been repeatedly unwilling to fund. Currently, the Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of funding as early as June, imperiling road and bridge construction and repair projects all across the nation. The American Society of Civil Engineers has already given our infrastructure a D+ grade, calling upgrades to our airports, roads, ports and rail system. A truly world-class infrastructure grid that drives economic growth is far more valuable to our long-term economic health than a short-sighted sacrifice of key revenue.

Instead of working to repeal the estate tax, leaders in Congress should instead get behind an infrastructure fix that will make our country more competitive, create jobs and end the cycle of staggering from transportation funding crisis to crisis. The Infrastructure 2.0 Act, which I introduced earlier this year, funds the Highway Trust Fund for six years and creates an additional $750 billion of infrastructure financing for states and local governments to use for their infrastructure projects. This bipartisan bill finds a way to use the record levels of overseas capital currently floating abroad and put it to good use domestically, in a way that makes our country and our economy stronger. It's good for business, it's good for the middle class and it's good for our nation's future.

The estate tax, like all policies, isn't perfect. No one wants the estate tax to force family businesses to be sold or to unnecessarily burden truly small family businesses, which may have low cash reserves. We should also look at reforms that allow families to spread their estate tax payments out over time. But that's not what this bill is -- a repeal is drastic and fiscally irresponsible policy.

This week, as Congress debates whether to repeal a tax paid by only the most fortunate Americans, a tax that impacts less than 1 percent percent of all estates, I ask my colleagues in Congress to reflect on their experiences and the future of the country.

I know that in my case -- and I suspect most others -- I did not build my company by making decisions that prioritized short-term profit over long-term strength. Sound business strategy calls for making prudent investments at the right time that pay off in the future, while cultivating an environment for growth. Our country is no different, and we should reject this ill-considered estate tax repeal and turn our attention to working to create the conditions America needs to grow and thrive.