Another Con Job of the Century: Stealth of the Super-Wealth

I’d be remiss in not cross-posting this from jspot
Kudos to Public Citizen and United for Fair Economy who today exposed one of the biggest con jobs in recent history: the campaign by a handful of the country’s wealthiest individuals to persuade Congress to repeal the estate tax. Currently, only those who leave estates greater than $2 million, or $4 million for couples, must pay the tax. In 2006, it is estimated that 0.27% of all estates in the U.S. will pay estate tax, meaning 99.73% of Americans can pass 100% of their estates to heirs tax free.
In a joint press conference earlier today, both organizations outlined how18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion.
From Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen:

We’re talking about enormously powerful and wealthy people – billionaires and mega-millionaires. They include the makers of Gallo wine and Campbell’s soup; the founders of world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, and the family behind the giant candymaker, Mars…The families have hidden behind trade associations and lobbyists to make their pitch. They have paid for misleading, fear-inducing ads. They have poured tens of millions of dollars into their efforts, essentially buying what they want in Washington since 1998. They have pumped nearly $28 million into political campaigns to ensure doors open for them and their lobbyists, and collectively, they and their businesses have spent $27 million lobbying Washington officials on a variety of issues, including estate tax repeal.

Both Daily Kos and MyDD have already been blogging about this issue, with molly bloom noting that “the Anne Cox Chambers daughter of the 1920 Democratic Presidential nominee, James Cox and owner of the Atlanta Journal Constitution is part of this cabal along with the Waltons (WalMart), the owners of the Seattle Times, the Nordstroms (owners of the department store) , Ernest and Joseph Gallo (E & J Gallo Winery), the owners of Campbell Soup Co., The Mars family (candy) and Kock Industries to name a few of the miscreants.”
From the press release today:

Said Lee Ferris, senior organizer for estate tax policy at UFE, “It’s time for the majority of Americans who support the estate tax to speak out, and not let a handful of wealthy families sway Congress to twist the tax laws for their own benefit. Polls now show that most Americans support this tax and the revenue it yields to pay for vital services, especially given our nation’s huge deficit.”

This report is phenomenal and deserves heavy traction in the blogosphere and media world, as they rightfully note that the estate tax repeal could cost the country $1 trillion over 10 years – enough to provide health insurance to every uninsured person in the United States.
Check out an audio recording by Bill Gates Sr. in support of estate tax.
A new national poll shows that 57% prefer keeping the tax as is or reforming it. Only 23% favor repealing the tax, and that the the number favoring preservation or reform rises to 68% when respondents learn more information about the estate tax.
Ready to act? Go here to learn more about legislative action, take the responsible wealth pledge and be ready to respond in May as this hits the Senate floor.

7 thoughts on “Another Con Job of the Century: Stealth of the Super-Wealth

  1. See this related item from the weblog of Robert Reich:
    SOURCE http://robertreich.blogspot.com/2006/04/giving-lots-of-money-to-your-kids.html
    Thursday, April 20, 2006
    Giving Lots of Money to Your Kids
    The best thing about taping Oprah Winfrey’s show a few days ago was the I had the good fortune to meet another of her guests — a young woman named Nicole Buffet. Turns out Nicole is the granddaughter of Warren Buffet, the second wealthiest man in the United States. Here’s the kicker: Nicole doesn’t have health insurance. She can’t afford it. She’s a struggling artist, and she works for every penny she has. Now, you might ask yourself (as I did), what’s the granddaughter of the second-richest man in America doing so poor? The answer is Warren isn’t giving his children or his grandchildren a dime of his huge wealth. He put them through college, and then told them they were on their own. He doesn’t believe in wealthy parents giving their descendants great gobs of money in trusts and other devices used to skirt the estate tax and set them up for life. He thinks everyone ought to work for what they get. Well, Nicole is as lovely as she could be. She’d prefer having enough money from her granddad to be able to afford health insurance and a few other small amenities of life, but she respects his decision. Within the next twenty years, there will be the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world — from rich Americans to their children and grandkids. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have by now accumulated more money than any small group has ever accumulated in history — roughly equal to 40 percent of all the wealth in the nation. This top 1 percent won’t live forever. And right now, unlike Warren Buffet, they’re planning to pass it on to their children and grandchildren, who will presumably live like kings and queens and then pass on the rest to their children and grandchildren. As wealth becomes ever more concentrated in fewer hands at the top, this great trasfer means that in a few generations a large percent of America’s wealth will be under the control of people who never worked for it. In other words, we’re on the way to putting control of a big chunk of our economy into the hands of a group of people who are not entrepreneurs or inventors or businessmen and women, who have no talent or insight whatsoever, who may be the least capable people of all when it comes to wisely investing this load of money. Meanwhile, the Bushies are busily trying to eliminate the estate tax, which hits only the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, and hits them very gently. Three cheers for Warren Buffet. I wish more wealthy Americans shared his wisdom.
    posted by Robert Reich | 7:51 AM

  2. I’d like to offer a counterpoint. In years past, it has been explained to me (perhaps erroneously) that fixed assets have a cash value in terms of inheritance. There are family farms and moderately small business that have cash values of more than $2 million, but it often happens that the parents die, there isn’t sufficient insurance to cover the taxes, and the kids don’t have that kind of cash, so they lose the business.
    I’ve always been against any form of repetitive taxation. When money is earned, taxes are (presumably) paid on it. After that, if I choose to leave it to my kids, or give it to them or to anyone else while I am still alive – it’s none of the government’s business. I’m also against gift taxes and sales tax on private transactions between individuals (the sale of a car, for example), for this reason.
    I don’t really disagree with Reich, but I’m not sure that these taxes are the answer. I wish that we could pass an inheritance law that would apply only to obnoxious rich kids, but, obviously, it wouldn’t be implementable.
    As far as Buffet is concerned – I’m hard-pressed to offer a cheer for a man who has billions of dollars but won’t pay for his granddaughter’s health insurance, under the pretense of teaching her a lesson about life. Frankly, I think that it’s disgusting.

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