Email #331: “the unfair estate tax”?

According to the Republican tax plan revealed yesterday, the estate tax will be eliminated immediately for inheritances smaller than $11 million (double the current cut-off), and then after six years eliminated for all inheritances no matter how large.

Anticipating this proposed change, you said on September 29:

“I am also pleased to see an elimination of the death tax, which unfairly targets family farms and small business owners.”

You are either grossly misinformed or this is an intentional lie. The estate does not target family farms and small businesses. It hardly affects any family farms and small businesses at all.

President Trump made the same lie two days earlier in his September 27 speech in Indianapolis:

“To protect millions of small businesses and the American farmer, we are finally ending the crushing, the horrible, the unfair estate tax, or as it is often referred to, the death tax.”

Currently the estate tax only applies to the 5,460 Americans whose estates are worth more than $5.43 million. How many of those millionaires are family farmers? According to Political Fact-Check: only 16-24 total estates. That’s why the website gave Bill Maher a “Mostly True” rating when he said: “More astronauts have been to the moon than farmers who paid the inheritance tax in 2013.”

According to the Tax Policy Center, only a total 80 farms and small businesses will pay the estate tax in 2017. But the President said he wanted to repeal it in order to protect “millions of small businesses and the American farmer.” Describing 80 as a minimum of 2,000,000 is not merely an exaggeration. It is a lie.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 27.9 million small businesses in the U.S. in 2010. Even if you don’t subtract the 16-24 family farms, the difference between 80 and 27,900,000 is even greater than the President’s lie. The overwhelming majority of small businesses are not affected by the estate tax. And yet you say they are the “targets”?

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, repealing the estate tax will cost about $270 billion in lost revenue over the next ten years. Farms and small businesses will account for less than 1/5th of 1% of that total. Repealing the tax will not help “family farms and small business owners.” It will instead help the multi-millionaires the tax currently targets.

Why are you so desperate to repeal the estate tax that you are willing to tell such verifiable lies?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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