One thing that’s pretty clear about WA’s 2006 US Senate campaign, is that whoever the Republican’s dig up to oppose Maria Cantwell, the challenger is almost certain to get the Seattle Times’ endorsement.
Why? Because Times’ publisher Frank Blethen is not only mortal, he’s also a mortal enemy of the
death estate tax… and Sen. Cantwell opposes Republican efforts to eliminate the federal estate tax entirely. That’s why, according to the the NY Times, the GOP and its surrogates are already spending money targeting Sen. Cantwell on this issue:
Advocates of repeal have begun showing commercials criticizing senators who oppose repeal, like Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. Many of the criticisms focus on a supposed threat to family farms.
Which is, of course, incredibly dishonest, considering that a Congressional Budget Office report released last week shows that only 300 farms nationwide were subject to the federal estate tax last year, and of these, all but 27 farmers had left enough liquid assets to pay the taxes owed… although the report “hinted that the actual number might be zero.”
And it gets even better for farm heirs.
Next year, when the threshold rises to $2 million per person, just 123 farms will be subject to the estate tax, the study found. And in 2009, when it rises to $3.5 million, only 65 of the nation’s 2.2 million farms will be affected, the study said.
The federal estate tax raised $23.4 billion last year, and repeal would shift burden off the fortunes left by the richest 1 percent of Americans, to the rest of us, either through higher taxes, reduced services, or more borrowing (thus burdening future generations.) Repealing the estate tax would only benefit the super-rich… and to claim that such a move is intended to help family farmers is an out and out lie.
Neil E. Harl, an economics professor at Iowa State University whose expertise in estate tax planning for farmers has made him a household name in the grain belt, said many Americans had a false impression that the estate tax was destroying family farming.
He said the Congressional study “adds to the weight of the evidence that this is a myth that has been well spun.”
“Farms, in particular,” Mr. Harl said, “are not in jeopardy because of estate taxes.”
Michael J. Graetz, a professor at Yale Law School who was a tax policy official in the administration of President George Bush, said repeal was primarily a benefit to people with large estates held in stocks and other securities, not to farmers.
You can argue if you want about the wisdom of giving tax breaks to the very wealthy while our nation suffers from record budget deficits, but math is math.
President Bush and others have repeatedly asserted that the estate tax is destroying family farms, yet have failed to cite a single case of a farm being lost to estate taxes… “although in June 2001 Mr. Bush said he had talked to such farmers.” Yeah… but then, Bush is a liar.
Sen. Cantwell deserves our support for courageously opposing the lie, knowing it will cost her the support of the most powerful newspaper in the state.
It has been suggested to me by a journalist I respect, that perhaps I have been a touch unfair. The Times did print an editorial stating they “can live with” a federal estate tax with a top rate of 15%, and they have in the past endorsed other candidates who oppose repeal. So I just want to set the record straight.