The syndicated editorial feature, Two Views, which presents two sides of a policy issue, would be a public service if both sides offered a rational argument based on actual facts. That feature in the June 12 paper ("Two Views: The estate tax") demonstrates what happens when one side makes such an argument and the other responds with unsupported claims and falsehoods.
The rational argument is that offered by Brendan Duke ("Repealing the estate tax is phony populism") and the false response is made by Ed Feulner ("Dueling with the death tax"). The falsehoods start with the title. There is no federal "death tax." There is a federal estate tax on estates worth more than $5.49 million. The term "death tax" is an attempt by Republican political operatives to falsely brand this tax as one of broad application.
Feulner scoffs at the claim that the federal estate tax only affects the rich even though that claim is clearly true. The federal estate tax is only assessed on the wealthiest 1-2 percent of estates. With modest estate planning, a married couple with a net worth of $11 million could avoid federal estate taxes. And previous studies have shown that almost all of the benefit of repealing the federal estate tax would go to estates of more than $20 million. That sounds pretty rich to me.
Feulner then offers an old lie repeatedly used by Republicans: The "tax has destroyed countless family-owned businesses." Despite the repetitions, and despite repeated demands to identify even one such business, no evidence has been produced, because it doesn't exist.
Next, Feulner claims that the federal estate tax is a "job killer," for which there is also no evidence. Instead, he offers a variant of the "trickle-down" theory, really more of a fantasy, that if you just cut taxes on the very rich, they will become fairy godparents to the middle class, creating jobs here, there and everywhere. The "trickle-down" theory has been tried under President George W. Bush, and more recently in Kansas, and it has failed miserably.
Finally, Feulner pins his hopes on President Trump, the very model of a greedy plutocrat, and one who would reap huge benefits from repeal of the federal estate tax.
In the last four decades, Republicans have been successful in shifting the tax burden from the wealthy and from big corporations to the middle class and future generations. Repealing the federal estate tax would be the crown jewel in that ongoing campaign.
James M. Cronin lives in Westport.