Death and Taxes Now Will Depend on How Rich You Are

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

New Orleans   I used to have a teacher who delighted in repeating, while teaching some subject or another, that the only thing that was ever certain, was “death and taxes.” It turns out the only thing that is crystal clear about the current GOP proposal on taxes is that only death will be certain. Taxes? Not so much.

For one reason they are going after the estate tax or “death tax,” as the rich and the President like to call it with a vengeance. They may not be able to take it with them, but they sure as heck don’t want anyone else, including the government, to get a piece of it.

The proposal on its face seems not to give the rich a break since it keeps the nominal rate at 39.5% for the millionaire brigade. Looking past the face to the rest of the proposal finds that the rich get a treasure trove from the other goodies in the proposal, including foremost the corporate tax cut itself from a nominal rate of 35% down to 20%, freeing up vast amounts for holders of securities and coupon clippers.

For the biscuit cookers, this is a harder proposition. 13 million folks making less than $100,000 individually and more than about $50,000, will see their nominal rate and taxes increase. A union plumber, operating engineer, and many others making $30 or more an hour will be right there in the mix for a tax hike. The Republicans don’t like the Affordable Care Act, as we must all know by now, but if you are stuck with high medical bills, they want to eliminate your exemption for those bills. Not surprisingly the AARP says that proposal is a nonstarter for the elderly, who of course routinely have high medical bills. Perhaps part of the reason the Republicans think they can eliminate the estate tax is because most regular Americans won’t have any money left when they die once they pay their medical bills? All of those trying to pay the trillion dollars in student loans, your interest deduction will go missing.

Do the Republicans really want to hurt people this way? Probably not, but they really want to give money back to their corporate and rich donors, and they really don’t want a bipartisan plan hashed out with the Democrats that might be less kind to their minders. If they don’t balance the giveaway with some terrible pain, then they can’t pass the mess with a simple Republican majority and would need Democratic votes as well, changing the whole calculation.

But, this is only the opening bid to start the lobbying and contest between the public and the electeds, the lobbyists and the officeholders. This is the House as well, and not the Senate where every vote counts because of the thin margin there. Even in the House the punishment being inflicted on “blue” states on mortgage deductions and elimination of breaks for state and local taxes among other items, might cause them some trouble, and the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee has already said as much, and that he recognizes the need to fix this before its done.

So let them all smile for the cameras now, and let’s see what happens once all is said and done. Don’t hesitate to throw your own weight into the fight. It’s going to matter.

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