House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) recently made a complaint that sounded a bit like class warfare. "The Obamanomics that we're practicing now have exacerbated inequality," the far-right congressman said
, adding that only "the wealthy are doing really well."
Though the message doesn't really match the messenger, this kind of chatter has become surprisingly common
. Back in January, Mitt Romney, Mr. 47 Percent himself, told RNC members how concerned he is that "the rich have gotten richer" and "income inequality has gotten worse." Before that, it was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who complained, "Right now, the top 1 percent in this country, the millionaires and billionaires the president demagogues so much, earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928."
The rhetoric has long seemed quite ridiculous given the policy prescription pushed by the likes of Ryan, Romney, and Cruz. But as Matt O'Brien noted
, the concerns over economic inequality are especially farcical given the GOP's push to scrap the estate tax on the wealthiest of the wealthy.
Indeed, the Paul Ryan-led House Ways and Means Committee just symbolically voted to end the estate tax entirely. In other words, to stand in solidarity with the heirs of the top 0.2 percent. That's how many households pay the estate tax now: 2 out of 1,000. Why so low? Well, the first $5.43 million that an individual or $10.86 million that a couple leaves behind isn't taxed when they pass away. The estate tax, with its 40 percent top rate, only kicks in for anything more than that. And even then, creative accountants and big deductions can shield a lot of the rest from Uncle Sam.
By "symbolically voted," O'Brien was referring to a provision in the House Republican budget plan, which passed last week with a provision to eliminate the estate tax entirely, but is non-binding on Congress as members begin the appropriations process.
Senate Republicans are rallying behind legislation from Sen. John Thune that would repeal the federal estate tax. The South Dakota Republican said the tax, which opponents refer to as the "death tax," is punishing Americans "for a lifetime of hard work." [...] Twenty-seven Senate Republicans have endorsed Thune's bill, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.); Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), who is running for president; and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who is expected to launch a White House bid soon. McConnell called the tax "unfair" and "anti-family."
Just so we're clear, despite all the chatter among prominent Republicans about inequality, GOP lawmakers are eager to approve a $246 billion tax break that would exclusively benefit multi-millionaires.
One House Republican recently said
, "A budget is a moral document. It talks about where your values are." And by pushing for the elimination of the estate tax -- originally championed by Republican Teddy Roosevelt -- today's GOP lawmakers are making a powerful moral statement about whose interests they're eager to champion.
With economic inequality growing, the same Republicans who ended extended unemployment benefits want to give a $246 billion tax break to millionaires and billionaires. Their "values," alas, couldn't be clearer.