GOP 'Party Of Working Class' Has Brand New Shiny Idea: No Taxes For Dead Twenty-Millionaires!
If Republicans wants to brand themselves as the party of the working man, helping billionaires stiff Uncle Sam is an odd way to do it. But today's GOP isn't exactly — or even remotely — an ideas party. So on Tuesday, Senate Minority Whip John Thune and 25 of his Gipper henchmen took a break from screaming about Doctor Seuss to sponsor a bill to repeal the estate tax.
"The #DeathTax is an unfair tax that burdens family farms & ranches. Tragedy & loss shouldn't be exploited to fill the federal government's coffers," he tweeted. "Today, I led colleagues, including @LeaderMcConnell, @MikeCrapo, & many more, to reintro a #DeathTaxRepeal."
The '90s called, they want their bullshit back.
First of all, THERE IS NO DEATH TAX. Trump let more than 500,000 Americans perish in the pandemic, and they all shuffled off this mortal coil free of charge. A tiny, tiny percentage of them died with more than $11.7 million in assets, which is the amount you can give to your heirs tax-free. And a lot of those people had a spouse, so they got to give away twice as much without coughing up a penny.
In plain English, a married couple can leave $23.4 million to their heirs upon the death of the second spouse without paying any federal tax. So let's cut the shit about "family farms" getting "exploited to fill the federal government's coffers."
Of all the people who died in 2020, only about 1,900 will owe federal estate tax. As LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik points out, the number of people who pay the estate tax in John Thune's home state is so minuscule that the IRS redacts it to protect their privacy. Less than one-tenth of one percent of estates are subject to the federal estate tax, and only a handful of those contain farm assets. Notwithstanding this laughable analysis from the American Farm Bureau Federation which assumes that all farm land is worth $3,160/acre, all farmers are single, and Congress will allow the exemption to go back down to $5 million in 2025. It's a myth, and it was always a myth, even back in 2016 when the limit was $5.5 million for an individual, $11 million per couple.
But, okay, let's play this game for a second. Let's imagine that mythical Iowa farmer Senator Chuck "Ethanol" Grassley is tweeting about here.
2 things are guaranteed in life: death & taxes but the DEATH TAX should be REPEALED 2day I reintrod w Sen Thune a b… https://t.co/1nzaLnwbn0— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley)1615401788.0
"2 things are guaranteed in life: death & taxes but the DEATH TAX should be REPEALED 2day I reintrod w Sen Thune a bill to permanently repeal the federal estate tax An outdated barrier that hurts family farms & businesses," tweeted the good senator in his inimitable style.
Let's pretend that Farmer Corn Cob and his wife are leaving a farm worth $24 million to their children Kernel, Niblet, and Corn Jr. The taxable portion of this estate is $600,000, i.e. $24 million minus $23.4 million. On which they will owe about $192,800 — a whopping 0.8% of the estate — and unlike people inheriting non-farm assets, they'll have as much as 15 years to pay it off. Boo fucking hoo.
Here on Planet Earth, anyone with $20 million dollars pays a lawyer to transfer enough of their assets while they're alive to get their estate below the federal tax threshold. But you can only move so much money around, and a few ultra-wealthy people do actually end up with taxable estates. Spoiler Alert: Those people aren't family farmers, they're GOP donors — which is why Republican congressmen are constantly banging this stupid drum.
Do we care if Ted Turner's family has to sell some of his two million acres of ranch land to pay the estate tax when he dies? We do not! Which is why the GOP keeps lying about saving family farms when they try to jam this shit through.
Also here on Planet Earth, this bill has exactly zero chance of passing with Schumer holding the Leader's gavel. It had exactly zero chance of passing when McConnell held the gavel last year, which is why they never brought it up then. It never had a chance of passing in 2018 when those sumbitches held the House, too, unless they were going to nuke the filibuster. And even in the Trillion Dollar Tax Boondoggle of 2017, which they rammed through under reconciliation, Republicans didn't zero out the estate tax. They just doubled the exemption, which is how we got to the $23.4 million number today.
So why are they hot to trot on this now?
Because the GOP has no new ideas, so they're playing the oldies. Democrats just passed a wildly popular stimulus bill with zero Republican support, and the GOP has no plan to get the economy back online other than burning masks and buying up copies of children's books to own the libs. Their stupid trickle down economics tax bill was supposed to grow the federal coffers, but it wound up exploding the debt and the deficit. And four years under Trump has divorced them from any principle they ever pretended to have. How the hell do you run an effective attack on Democratic spending when the leader of your party is sending out deranged paper tweets saying you lost Congress because you didn't hand out $2,000 checks?
So the GOP, which styles itself the party of working Americans, is running the same "death tax" play they did in 2000. Sure the estate tax threshold was $675,000 20 years ago, but Kevin McCarthy ain't Newt Gingrich — he can barely remember to brush the Cheetoh dust off his cheeks after kissing Trump's ass, much less come up with a new diabolical strategy to trick people into voting against their own interests. They're going to march in lockstep on the "death tax" and keep their fingers crossed that shitting on trans kids will be a winner for them like gay marriage was for two decades, right up until it wasn't.
This is all they've got, and they're going to run it into the ground.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.