On Tax Day, House Republicans decided it was important to vote on a bill that would remind the American people how their party had turned a record surplus into a record deficit — while helping to create the worst inequality of wealth since the Great Depression.
After years of cuts affecting the people most injured by the Great Recession, Republicans voted 240-179 to repeal the Estate Tax, which currently only applies to the 5,400 richest estates, each totaling at least $5.43 million. This repeal would cost $269 billion over the next 10 years, which will be close to half the cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, better known as food stamps), which benefits 46.5 million of the poorest Americans. They need that money for luxuries like breakfast or dinner.
Apparently Republicans looked at this chart, which shows how the richest 16,000 or so families have sucked up nearly all of the gains of the economy over the last few decades, and thought, “How can we help that top squiggle go higher?”
There’s no chance this bill will become law under President Obama. But Republicans still believed this was an important statement to make, after years of maligning deficit spending and blasting struggling Americans as “takers.” Conservatives, who often see taxes as incentives, are fine with the taxes you pay on your labor. But to encourage you to play with money in the markets, taxes on investments should be lower. And to encourage you to have the richest parents possible, you should pay no taxes on inheritance. It’s all about personal responsibility.
Why won’t Republicans let this idea die? Because they don’t have to.
By calling this tax on the people who have benefited most from the society we’ve built together the “Death Tax,” they’ve made it extremely unpopular. They also push the lie that it’s meant to help “family” farmers, without producing one “family” farmer it helps. And they argue that the money has already been taxed, though billions of it hasn’t, thanks to another tax shelter for the rich known as “step-up tax” basis. Actually, the person inheriting the money has never paid a dime of taxes on it.
It’s fallacious economics, designed to warp our economy with avaricious accumulation of wealth by those who need it least. And yet it’s still good politics.
That’s our Republican Party, where the life expectancy of a horrible idea is forever. Here are five more horrible ideas and beliefs Republicans won’t let die.
1. The richest should pay no taxes — or just pay lower taxes than you.
Marco Rubio’s tax plan is amazing for numerous reasons. It doesn’t just slash the top tax rate lower than George W. Bush did. It doesn’t just raise taxes on some middle-class families as it adds $4.5 trillion to our deficit. It cuts the taxes on investments to zero. When billionaire Warren Buffett complained that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, Rubio thought the problem was that Buffett pays any taxes at all. Imagine how much more his kids could earn on their tax-free inheritance if their dad never paid taxes on his earnings! With incentives like that, why would anyone ever be poor again?
It’s a tax cut that’s so huge that New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait suggests it achieved a metaphysical impossibility: It’s too large for Republicans to believe it exists. But the massive, gold coin-filled swimming pools this plan hands out to the rich aren’t the problem for the Wall St. Journal. It’s the tax credits Rubio wants to give to middle class families, in his attempt to seem like a different sort of Republican. If we pay for those credits, the supply-siders argue, people might choose to be born middle class again. Or, even worse, we won’t be able to cut taxes for billionaires again.
Rubio has already felt the need to “fix” his plan once to make it more friendly to the rich. Looks like he’s going to have to do another draft.
2. More war.
Rubio’s horrible economic ideas are almost harmless when compared to his belligerent warmongering.
Without quite understanding the strategic interests of ISIS or Iran, Rubio wants to confront both, but just not in the ways President Obama is. Sure, Obama has led America into months of air strikes against ISIS. Rubio wants the same thing, The Week‘s Michael Brendan Dougherty explains. The junior senator just wants to make them “devastating.” Why not just use the words “shock and awe,” since Rubio still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea?
“Rubio’s foreign policy consists of babyish moralizing, a cultivated ignorance of history, and a deliberate blindness to consequences,” Dougherty writes.
On Iran, Rubio isn’t as bad as his fellow senator Tom Cotton, who suggested that preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon would be a military operation that would just take a few days. The presidential candidate seems to get that war with Iran — a country larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined — would take a while and thus cost us thousands of lives and trillions in wealth. But he’s into it anyway.