A couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention, where the president delivered a specific boast about the estate tax: “We got rid of it, folks.”
Actually, no, we didn’t. The Republicans’ regressive tax plan narrowed the eligibility of who would be affected by the estate tax, but GOP policymakers did not, in fact, “get rid of it.”
But some certainly want to. The Washington Post reported:
Three Republican Senators introduced a plan Monday to repeal the federal estate tax, moving to eliminate a tax on a small number of the wealthiest households just as leading Democrats ramp up calls to tax the richest Americans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) joined Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Thune (R-SD), members of the Senate Finance Committee, in releasing legislation to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, which conservatives refer to as “the death tax.”
McConnell and Thune are currently the top two lawmakers in the Senate’s Republican leadership. Grassley is the Senate Finance Committee chairman, the Senate’s president pro tempore (longest serving member of the majority), and a senator who defended his position on the estate tax about a year ago by suggesting working-class people spend too much of their money “on booze or women or movies.”
At this point, some of you are probably thinking, “There’s no way such a proposal would see the light of day in the Democratic-led House.” That’s true. What I think matters, however, is the fact that these three powerful Senate Republicans are ignoring this context and pushing for the tax break anyway.
As things currently stand, the estate tax only applies to estates worth more than $22 million. By most estimates, we’re talking about a few thousand Americans – each of whom is among the wealthiest of the wealthy – who might actually be affected by the tax.
Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, and John Thune look at the existing policy landscape – the enormous deficit Republicans have created, the priorities in desperate need of investment – and believe what’s really needed is another tax break that would exclusively benefit the rich. They see those at the very top and effectively declare, “We should be their champions.”
A few weeks after Election Day 2016, Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who advised Donald Trump during the campaign, told a group of Republicans that the party’s economic vision had taken an important turn. “Just as Reagan converted the GOP into a conservative party, Trump has converted the GOP into a populist working-class party,” Moore said at the time.
In hindsight, the comments read like a cruel joke.