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The Bull Moose has an excellent post today on the question of whether it should be a high priority for the Senate to repeal or permanently extend drastic reductions to the estate tax when they get back to town next week. It will be anathema for me among some Republicans to say this, but I just don't see how such a move is justifiable in the current climate.
The estate tax affects very few Americans every year. Contrary to the assertions of anti-tax groups, it rarely affects "small businesses and family farms," since it exempts all estates worth less than $1.5 million (an exemption that is scheduled to rise to $3.5 million by 2009). That works out to one half of one percent of all estates affected by the current rate (or less than two-tenths of one percent by 2009). Nonetheless, the House annually votes to permanently kill the estate tax, and a Senate vote on the repeal as early as next week may come close to the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
It is not fiscally responsible to repeal the estate tax at this time. We're fighting a war, face mountains of debt due to already-rampant budgetary insanity, and now have a tremendous cleanup and rebuilding effort to undertake in the Gulf region. Cutting taxes for the sake of cutting taxes just doesn't cut the mustard for me.
Centrist senators are already being targeted by a coalition of groups trying to pressure them into supporting the repeal: Democrats Max Baucus, Ron Wyden, Evan Bayh and Mary Landrieu, along with Republicans John McCain and George Voinovich are the swing votes on this, and the ad campaigns have begun ... the Club for Growth is even running t.v. ads against McCain in New Hampshire.
I have a feeling that Senator Landrieu's got other things on her mind right now ... and I hope the others do too. It's about priorities, and frankly repeal of the estate tax shouldn't even be close to the top of the list right now.
Another good editorial on this subject from today's Bangor Daily News.