Skip to main content

Why Won't Congress Abolish the Estate Tax?

House Representative Ron Paul asks why we can't seem to rid ourselves of the "death tax". Lamenting the fact that the U.S. Senate recently fell short of the votes it needed to repeal with the federal estate tax, Representative Paul declares that the tax survives "purely because of politics". Here's a bit of his reasoning:

The estate tax raises very little money. In fact, even at its height the estate tax accounted for only a little more than 1% of federal revenues. A congressional Joint Economic committee report estimates that Americans spend as much avoiding estate taxes—paying attorneys and accountants—as they do paying estate taxes. A study by a Stanford professor concluded that “True revenues associated with estate taxation may well have been near zero, or even negative.”

It’s no longer a matter of tax policy or economics—the arguments in favor of the estate tax have all been demolished. Instead, the estate tax survives purely because of politics.

The real motivation behind the estate tax is a deep-seated hostility to property rights, and a misguided fear of family dynasties. But people don’t keep money in mattresses anymore. Money inherited from an estate is either spent, saved, or invested—all of which are better for the economy than sending it to Washington, where bureaucratic overhead consumes at least 50 cents of every dollar.

If you truly own your property, you have the right to dispose of it any way you wish. You can sell it, give it away, or direct who will receive it when you die. This control is the essence of property rights. If you can’t control what happens to your property, you don’t really own it.

I'd have to say that I agree with his argument. What's funny about this is that I'm reminded of something I read in the Financial Times the other day. Here's how they summed up the political view of the estate tax:

The policy arguments over estate tax are by now rote. Those against it (usually Republicans) say it is unfair; those for it (mostly Democrats) say it redistributes wealth.

Democrats are mostly for it because it redistributes wealth. This in turn reminds me of a quote I read just yesterday. I can't recall it perfectly, but someone remarked that the difference between the left in Europe and America is that the Europeans didn't mind calling themselves socialists, whereas the Americans adopted the banner of Democrat.

Anyway, I didn't mean for this to become one of those party politics discussions. If you're interested in the issue of estate tax and property rights, give Ron Paul's piece a look. You can read the full essay here.

Popular posts from this blog

The Dot-Com Bubble in 1 Chart: InfoSpace

With all the recent talk of a new bubble in the making, thanks in part to the Yellen Fed's continued easy money stance, I thought it'd be instructive to revisit our previous stock market bubble - in one quick chart.

So here's what a real stock market bubble looks like. 

Here's what a bubble *really* looks like. InfoSpace in 1999-2001. $QQQ$BCORpic.twitter.com/xjsMk433H7
— David Shvartsman (@FinanceTrends) February 24, 2015
For those of you who are a little too young to recall it, this is a chart of InfoSpace at the height of the Nasdaq dot-com bubble in 1999-2001. This fallen angel soared to fantastic heights only to plummet back down to earth as the bubble, and InfoSpace's shady business plan, turned to rubble.

As detailed in our post, "Round trip stocks: Momentum booms and busts", InfoSpace rocketed from under $100 a share to over $1,300 a share in less than six months. 

In a pattern common to many parabolic shooting stars, the stock soon peaked and began a…

New! Finance Trends now at FinanceTrendsLetter.com

Update for our readers: Finance Trends has a new URL! 

Please bookmark our new web address at Financetrendsletter.com

Readers sticking with RSS updates should point your feed readers to our new Finance Trends feedburner.  



Thank you to all of our loyal readers who have been with us since the early days. Exciting stuff to come in the weeks ahead!

As a quick reminder, you can subscribe to our free email list to receive the Finance Trends Newsletter. You'll receive email updates about once every 4-8 weeks (about 2-3 times per quarter). 

Stay up to date with our real-time insights and updates on Twitter.

Moneyball: How the Red Sox Win Championships

Welcome, readers. To get the first look at brand new posts (like the following piece) and to receive our exclusive email list updates, please subscribe to the Finance Trends Newsletter.

The Boston Red Sox won their fourth World Series titleof the 21st century this week.

Having won their first Series in 86 years back in 2004, the last decade-plus has marked a very strong return to form for one of baseball's oldest big league clubs. So how did they do it?

Quick background: in late 2002, team owner and hedge fund manager,John W. Henry(with his partners)bought the Boston Red Sox and its historic Fenway Park for a reported sum of $695 million.

Henry and Co. quickly set out to find their ideal General Manager (GM) to help turn around their newly acquired, ailing ship.

This brings us to one of my favorite scenes from the 2011 film, Moneyball, in which John W. Henry (played by Arliss Howard) attempts to woo Oakland A's GM Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) over to Boston with an excellent job off…