Econ-Atrocity: Death and Taxes

The House of Representatives decided to follow George W. Bush’s advice and vote to abolish the estate tax, thus making life easier and more fun for the wealthiest 2% of the population”“the only segment of the population to which this tax applies.

The cost to the rest of us: about $30 billion a year. That’s far more than the federal government spends on cash welfare programs (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) every year.

Even Jane Bryant Quinn, the Newsweek columnist who is best known for her investment advice, editorialized against the cut. She systematically rebuts claims that estate taxes are breaking up family farms or destroying small business. As she puts it: “If the estate tax isn’t fair, I don’t know what is.” (Newsweek, July 31, 2000).

For more technical details, and some good arguments in FAVOR of the estate tax, check out what Citizens for Tax Justice have to say, at

Here’s an excerpt:

“The parent who leaves his son enormous wealth,” wrote steel magnate Andrew Carnegie a century ago, “generally deadens the talents and energies of the son, and leads him to lead a less useful and less worthy life than he otherwise would.” You’d think that Republicans, if anyone, would sympathize with Carnegie’s point. After all, if giving a single mother $10,000 a year in welfare stifles her incentive to work, just think how much worse it must be for someone who gets a windfall of 100 or 1,000 times that much.

Econ-Atrocities are a periodic publication of the Center for Popular Economics. They are the work of their authors and reflect their author’s opinions and analyses. CPE does not necessarily endorse any particular idea expressed in these articles.