There are only two things certain in life: death… and Frank Blethen’s editorial board bitching about it.
The Seattle Times prints yet another editorial today railing against what has become euphemistically known as the
Estate Death Blethen Tax, and it is curious to see the evolution of their rhetoric. With last week’s failure of the GOP’s cynical “trifecta” legislation, and the prospects of Democrats making huge gains in both houses this November — if not seizing outright control — the Times has apparently conceded that permanent repeal of the federal Blethen Tax is virtually impossible. And so they have settled for attempting to pressure our two US Senators into accepting the best deal possible… for, um, the Blethens.
In so doing they have produced an editorial that is not only arrogant and disingenuous, but at times downright insulting. For example:
Many other advanced countries, including Canada, Australia and Sweden, have no death taxes. These are not low-tax countries: Sweden has the highest tax load in the world, which it can do only by making taxes as efficient as possible. It recently abolished its death tax.
And suppose I were to argue for adopting an “efficient” tax system along the lines of Sweden? Hmm. You think the Times would editorialize in support of marginal income tax rates as high as 87 percent?
Of course not, but then, the entire Sweden reference is nothing but an intentional red herring, because the Times knows damn well that the Swedes replaced their Blethen Tax with a 1.5% annual Wealth Tax on single adult households in excess of about $200,000 (twice that for couples.) This is indeed a more efficient means of taxing accumulated wealth than a Blethen Tax, but I doubt the Times would advocate it as an alternative.
But the Times continues:
Both of our senators have heard these facts many times. Yet, it is an election year. Sen. Maria Cantwell is under pressure from her party’s left, which regards the death tax as a symbol of social concern. They like the idea of it, but they don’t know what it does.
Talk about chutzpah. The wealthy publisher of the largest newspaper in the state, conducting a concerted effort to pressure a Senator during an election year, has the hubris to attack Sen. Cantwell for bowing to pressure from, um, mere voters. Gimme a break.
And as for the argument that us Dems like the idea of the Blethen Tax but we “don’t know what it does”… well, fuck you. (Say what you want about us foul-mouthed bloggers, but at least we don’t try to court readers by accusing them of being uninformed idiots. And FYI, it doesn’t take much perusing of their op/ed page to realize these guys aren’t a bunch of rocket scientists.)
But more interesting than what the Times wrote is what they didn’t write, for in fact, the Blethen Tax should be somewhat reformed. Yet notice the reform on which the Times focuses: reducing the top rate from a nominal 55 percent to something much lower.
What the editorial ignores is the reform most likely to get support from Democrats like me — raising the exemption from the paltry $650,000 the tax would revert to in 2011. Hell, by 2011, $650,000 probably won’t buy you the median priced house in Seattle. Somewhere in the range of $3 million would likely be a reasonable number.
But the editorial totally ignores this part of the equation because it would have little impact on Blethen’s heirs, who will surely pay the top rate on the bulk of their inheritance barring anything but a ridiculously large exemption.
We care about family business