It's Back | The Nation

Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

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It's Back

The last post I wrote about the estate tax was followed by a lively comment thread arguing the merits and meaning of a regulated economy. Even more importantly, it was also followed by a June 8 Senate vote (57 to 41) against permanent estate tax repeal. That was an important victory. But, somehow, there's going to soon be another vote on the estate tax. ("Like the ghoul in the horror movie that refuses to die," the Washington Post said.) Last week the House approved a proposal to sharply cut the estate tax that will cost roughly 75 percent as much as full repeal. The Senate is expected to vote on it this week, maybe even today.

According to experts, the vote should be extremely close. But the fact is that gutting the nation's most progressive tax would benefit less than one half of one percent of the country and would subtract, according to United For a Fair Economy (UFE), roughly 833 billion dollars from government coffers over the next decade. At a time of raging deficits and social spending cuts, it's the worst time imaginable to contemplate something like estate tax repeal. But then, as the New York Times editorialized, "The goal is not to pass good legislation, but to get this top priority for big-shot constituents nailed into law before the November elections produce a legislature that's more responsible on fiscal matters."

UFE, which is the group that discovered that 18 families worth a total of $185 billion have financed and coordinated the repeal campaign, sees Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray as the two key swing votes. Both voted against repeal in the last vote but they're apparently getting leaned on hard this time around. So UFE is urging people to contact Cantwell and Murray (especially Washingtonians) and implore them to hold firm against the moneyed interests seeking to concentrate wealth into even fewer hands. Ask them to oppose another huge tax break for multi-millionaires while the rest of the country suffers from breakdowns in infrastructure, housing and healthcare.

Here's UFE's suggested script:
"Don't cut the estate tax. Please vote ‘no' on the motion to proceed with consideration of HR 5638, and any other votes that sharply reduce the estate tax. And thank you for voting against repeal of the estate tax." Add a personal message about who you are and why you oppose cutting the estate tax, such as, "I am a small business person, and it is a myth that the estate tax hurts small businesses," or "I am wealthy and will pay this tax, and I believe it's an important part of our progressive tax system." Leave a full message and your number if you do not reach the staffperson.

**Call Senator Cantwell's DC office, 202-224-3441. Leave a short message about supporting the estate tax with the front desk, then ask to speak with Rachel Nuzum, the Leg. Asst. on Taxes. If you do not talk with her, please send one email with your support to michael_Meehan@cantwell.senate.gov, angela_becker-dippmann@cantwell.senate.gov, and rachel_nuzum@cantwell.senate.gov.

**Call Senator Murray's DC office, 202-224-2621. Leave a short message about supporting the estate tax with the front desk, then ask to speak with Josh Jacobs, the Leg. Asst. on Taxes. If you do not talk with him, please send one email with your support to lesley_turner@murray.senate.gov, rick_desimone@murray.senate.gov, and joshua_Jacobs@murray.senate.gov.

Don't forget to email your own Senators as well. Click here for contact info for your elected reps, and check out UFE's Estate Tax Action Center for a host of related resources.

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