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Interesting, Taxing Times

Updated: Mar 9, 2019

The ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," turns out to be neither ancient nor Chinese. Nevertheless, it is hard to deny that we do live in interesting times.

Even tax debate is interesting and is getting more interesting. For many years I have fought to repeal the inequitable, unjust estate tax, the Death Tax. This year, the crop of Democratic candidates lining up to try to run for president in 2020 seems to be in lock-step in favor of higher, growth-stunting Death Tax rates.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the exemption from the federal estate tax from approximately $5.2 million to $11.4 million. It left unchanged the 40% rate. Now, a Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), has proposed reducing the exemption from the tax and increasing the top rate to 75%!

Also, a bill by socialist Senator Bernard Sanders, the Responsible Estate Tax Act, calls for an increase of the top estate tax to approximately 61%. And recently, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has introduced a bill providing for a top estate tax rate of 65%. We have yet to hear from presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard on the rate they'd propose. It is fair to say that they or the dozen or so other Democratic candidates would certainly up the bidding.

I'm waiting for the latest media-star Democrat to take a stand on the Death Tax. As I write this, newly elected socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has announced that she would favor a 70% income tax, and we have to assume that her preferred Death Tax rate would be at least that. She has also stated that "a system that allows billionaires to exist ... is wrong." She didn't say how to get rid of them, but my guess is that the tax code would be involved.

As to her popularity, the Axios-Survey Monkey poll showed that 74% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters would consider voting for avowed socialist Ocasio-Cortez for president. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and other prospective candidates don't have to worry because the Constitution mandates that one must be 35 to be elected to the office. She's 29.

As president of the American Business Defense Council, I look forward to educating policymakers as to the likely impact of higher Death Taxes. A new study we are commissioning would do that and show how such higher rates will hurt economic growth, stunt job creation and even reduce long-term federal revenues (when you squelch the economy, you squelch tax revenues).

The majority of Americans favor Death Tax repeal -- by about two-thirds! And only university humanities professors, leftist politicians, and major media support it. That's enough for some, and we have a fight on our hands.

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