I have to admit that the estate tax is one of my favorite things to rant about. The purpose of the estate tax is to ensure that when wealth is passed between generations, a portion goes to support the wonderful capitalist system that provided that amazing wealth in the first place. Before the new tax "compromise," only couples with more than $7 million in assets (and singles with $3.5 million in assets) would pay any estate tax at all; these people are the top one percent of U.S. households. Now with this new bill, we are exempting the first $10 million for a couple, and maxing the percentage that anyone pays to 35 percent. At what cost? $20 billion -- an average tax savings of $1 million per household.
But, at the same time, Congress wants to "save" social security (or so they said in their campaigns) -- but how? By cutting the payroll taxes that fund it. Then they will say that if we want to ensure that social security benefits continue, we will have to "pay for it" by finding cuts in discretionary domestic spending elsewhere. But somehow, we don't have to "pay for" giving millionaires and billionaires a deficit busting tax break?
You be the judge. I'm glad that unemployment insurance has been extended, and that the increase in the earned income tax credit and child tax credit have been continued. I'm less than thrilled that the "Make Work Pay" tax credit for low-income families and singles has been discontinued at a cost of $800 to families making less than $20,000. And, if you make less than $20,000, you know how much $800 will mean to your family. Even the reduction in the payroll tax doesn't make up for that. Not for these families.
I , for one, am tired of millionaires making laws that benefit millionaires (44 percent of our Senators fall into that category). These laws make those of us who are "hundredaires" and "thousandaires" pay for it. We'll pay for it in education and infrastructure, we'll pay for it in social security and Medicaid reductions, and we'll pay for it again and again and again. This is class warfare at it's best, and we don't even get to be in the game.
Rev. Jennifer Kottler is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at Sojourners. A long-time advocate for justice, Jennifer has served in advocacy ministry for more than eight years through her work at Protestants for the Common Good (Chicago, IL), the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, and the Chicago Jobs Council.