I comment on a regular basis at Talk Left, under the same name; feel free to check out my comments. I think you will find that the last thing I am is a troll, but I appreciate your wariness at my seemingly sudden appearance. As it happens, I read here regularly because of David’s excellent coverage of issues that don’t get covered with as much depth or frequency almost anywhere else.
For what it’s worth – and it may not be much – I was moderating comments at FDL long before it was what it is today.
I’m not going to do a tutorial on estate tax – for one thing, I’m pretty sure you’re smart enough to come up with your own hypothetical, have the skills to look up your own state’s estate tax rates, and, with a little reading and a calculator, figure out what the tax bite would be. Yes, I see a lot of estates where money has been accumulating to obscene levels over several generations, and it grates on my last nerve when I see so much need out there, but I also see a fair amount of modest estates, where in many cases the real estate market is what pushed them into what you might call “rich man land,” when “rich” is definitely not what these people were.
As for your “limousine liberal” crack, this country has always had the ability to close the gap between the rich and the poor, but those in charge of spending have chosen to put other things higher up on the priority list; if you’re honest with yourself, you may be able to agree that the additional revenue raised by taking the estate tax back to the Clinton years is not likely to do much, if anything to improve the quality of life for the least among us, because they won’t spend it that way. I mean, for the love of God, we can’t even get Dems to stop talking about “reforming” the safety-net programs. Or pushing austerity. Or getting hysterical about deficits and debt.
A couple of things I have to quibble with because this is the area in which I work:
First, the top rate of 55% is not imposed on every dollar over the threshold amount of $1 million, but on every dollar over $3 million.
Second, in some areas of the country where real estate values are still high compared to other areas of the country, one can have a $1 million estate in a heartbeat: a house, a 401(k) or IRA, life insurance, a modest savings/checking account, small stock holdings, and – boom – you’re there. If you aren’t survived by a spouse, which provides opportunities to shelter joint property and life insurance/IRAs from tax, and, providing there is a Will with the appropriate provisions, the ability to take a “marital deduction” that reduces the estate to the threshold amount, that million-dollar estate can shrink dramatically once federal and state estate taxes are paid.
In my opinion, $1 million is too low, but $5 million is too high, so my guess is they will end up compromising on the 2009 level of $3.5 million at a rate of 45%.
Lest you think I’m defending rich people, I’m not; I just think it’s important to consider not just how this system works, but the not-really-rich people it definitely affects.
And while I’m not a fan of Max Baucus, if I was the senator from Montana, where ranches and farms abound, I’d probably frame my conversations with local media in those terms, as well.
Sorry this is so long – I know most of the comments here are short and sweet, but this subject isn’t one that distills well into a couple of sentences.