The world headquarters of, pictured here, is like Mecca for dipshits. They pray toward it five times daily. And every day their faith is rewarded.

Since it's apparently 2001 and Tom DeLay is still relevant, it's time to debate the estate tax again! Wooooo! Since its big guns are all far, far too busy writing about Islamistical Muslimist Terrorists shooting up military bases and being found innocent in liberal New York courtrooms (seriously, there are like 25 columns about it), TownHall had to hand this important task to some bag of fluid in a cheap suit named Ed Feulner. Ed is up to the challenge though, serving up a steaming cauldron of persuasion called "Time to Bury the 'Death Tax'". See what he did there? Bury the death tax? Oh, you'd best call the babysitter, dear readers, because wordplay like presages something so awesome that a responsible adult could not allow children to see it. Let's roll.

Kevin Hancock simply wants to harvest trees — sustainably — and create jobs in the process. The federal government may put a stop to all that.

That's why I'm calling my Congressman – and I recommend you do the same – and telling him "Vote NO! on the Stop Kevin Hancock from Harvesting Trees and Omnibus Defense Spending Reconciliation Bill!" NO on H.R. 312, YES on Kevin Hancock harvesting trees.

His business, Hancock Lumber, has been in the family for six generations. It owns 30,000 acres of Maine timberland and employs 550 people. But Kevin already knows that when his elderly mother dies, he’ll have to sell off huge swaths of his land to pay the ensuing tax bill.

Wow, his company is that big and they don't have any other source of revenue? Given that…hmm…the tax only applies to estates worth more than $3 million, there should be some cash available. Nah.

It’s an example of the long reach of the death tax

Estate tax. Understandable typo.

the penalty families have to pay when a loved one dies and leaves them significant assets.

Right. The "penalty" that a fraction of a percent of households have to pay when Dad tries to will the kids his $3 million-plus estate, thus essentially giving each of them a couple million dollars in income – unearned income, like winning the Lotto -for that tax year.

Yet, for Hancock and many others, some relief may be in sight. In 2001, lawmakers passed a law that gradually phased out the levy, which has destroyed countless family-owned businesses over the years.

So many that Ed Feulner couldn't possibly take the time to mention an example here. Businesses destroyed by the estate tax, like examples of voter fraud, are so pervasive that it's not possible to identify any specific cases.

The death tax has been stepped down from 55 percent (for those in the top tax bracket) 8 years ago to 45 percent. But that gradual decline was just a prelude for 2010, when the tax will — finally — disappear all together.

The top bracket is for estates worth more than $10 million. Thank god it's expiring next year, one of the hidden "Surprise! Fuck you!" landmines left behind by the Bush administration. Oddly he didn't believe strongly enough in repealing the tax to take the revenue hit on his own watch.

Unfortunately, like the killer in so many slasher movies, the death tax could return to menace family businesses again in 2011. Unless Congress acts, it’s scheduled to return to the obscene 55 percent rate after next year, thus reawakening the nightmare of the American Dream.

Slow down with the pop culture references, Mr. Radical!

Lawmakers are poised to take action soon. But Americans should insist they take the right action. For example, earlier this year the Senate passed a non-binding amendment that would set the death tax at 35 percent starting next year. That’s quite a jump from zero percent, and would be a big step in the wrong direction.

A non-binding amendment? Wow. It's almost like we're dead broke and the Senate is looking at every source of revenue carefully, understanding that we have to make choices that may be unpleasant or involve sacrifices.

The sensible thing would be for lawmakers to leave the current policy in place and allow the death tax to go away completely. With the Senate already facing titanic struggles over health care, global warming and federal spending this year, there’s no point in attempting to upend a policy that’s already set in law.

I just called one of my friends at the University of Arguments and he said this is, without a doubt, the lamest argument in the history of arguments. The law's on the books, so we might as well leave it – so much easier than changing it. Is the Senate composed of 19 year old stoners who can't be bothered to get up for Funyuns and will stare at a 12 hour Dirty Jobs marathon because it's so much easier than finding the remote?

Besides, Americans deserve to see how much better things would be without the death tax, especially since repealing it might help our country — finally — pull out of recession.

See, Ed's really looking out for the little guy here. For you. This isn't about preserving the wealth of the top tenth of one percent of the population. It's about letting you see how much better the world will be when phenomenally wealthy people get to hold on to just a little bit more of the money they earned, especially since they've been earning so much more once they moved your job to Indonesia.

The death tax is a job killer. Heritage Foundation economists found that the…

Yes, let's ask non-partisan experts at the Heritage Foundation! I wonder if they will reach the only conclusion they've ever reached about anything ever. In other news, the National Association of Corn Processors have conducted a study on the deliciousness of corn syrup and discovered that corn syrup is a nutritious, delicious, and essential part of a daily diet without which you will develop AIDS.

By the way, remember the Heritage reference. I have a surprise for you at the end.

found that the federal levy leads to the loss of between 170,000 and 250,000 potential jobs each year. (It’s impossible to be more specific, simply because those jobs were never created in the first place. We certainly could use them now).

"It's really hard to be specific when you're basically bending forward and pulling statistics out of your ass."

How does it kill jobs?

30% are killed in the initial blast; essentially any job within 1000m of the tax is instantly vaporized. Medium-term effects like shortwave ionizing radiation kill another 30 to 40 percent of the jobs, while the final third die an excruciating death over a period of several weeks as radioactive Estate Tax Fallout enters their respiratory systems.

Partly because it encourages wealthy Americans to spend their money today rather than invest it in growing a business.

Spending money does not help the economy. Or create "demand" for "products and services." None of which has ever created a "job."

After all, we’re all going to die.

Hey, this guy's right! We are going to die. That's why I don't waste the precious time I have on this planet worrying about what the Waltons will have to cough up when they die and leave a quarter of a billion dollars to their kids. I'm glad we had this talk.

What’s the point of building a bigger nest egg if Washington is just going to take a third of it, a half of it, or even more?

There is no point to acquiring a couple million dollars if any of it is taxed. No incentive. None. You'd be an idiot to do it.

Because the estate tax discourages investment, it also holds down wage growth. Since businesses have less funding, they’re less able to purchase new tools and equipment. So workers are less productive and suffer slower wage and salary growth.

This paragraph was plagiarized from a high school macroeconomics textbook from 1958. This is really very simple, kids. If Mr. Spacely has to pay an estate tax to will the widget factory to his son, then they can't invest in new assembly line machines to help you make more widgets. Ultimately this will cause him to open a widget factory in Guadalajara. Are you still with me? This is all very simple: do what the plutocrats say or they'll destroy you to preserve their obscene wealth.

The death tax also hammers some Americans more than others

Yes, it hammers those affected by the "death" tax – people with assets worth more than $3 million – and hammers the rest of us not one goddamn bit. Quite a hammering disparity.

since it especially targets landowners.

Isn't about time someone looked out for their interests?

Millions of farmers, ranchers and homeowners have, like the Hancock family, improved their land. Yet when they die, the federal government punishes their heirs.

It "punishes" them for being handed millions in assets they did nothing to earn except be born. I don't know how I sleep in a world with that kind of cruelty.

Death and taxes, they say, are both inevitable. But it’s not inevitable that one must lead to the other.

This is its own paragraph, denoting how proud Ed was of his clever allusion to the death theme.

Americans are set to get a glimpse of life without the death tax next year. After that, Lawmakers should act to make sure this levy goes away. Completely and forever.

Get mad, people. Then get involved. That exemption of the first $3 million in inherited property followed by a progressive tax that tops out around 50% for estates worth $10,000,000 or more may not seem like it's going to ruin your life, but that's beyond naive. Go ahead thinking that it's not going to hurt you. Let your guard down and then before you know it, the estate tax is taking your house, making you fat, and probably trying to have its way with your daughter.

By the way, might it have been worthwhile for Ed Feulner to point out that he's the President of the Heritage Foundation when appealing to their expert judgment in the column? Apparently Ed was too busy calculating the value of the estate Mom and Pop – who owned a North Shore real estate empire in Chicago – were going to leave him to pay any attention in those college ethics classes.


  • Ed, one small point. Inflation(caused by the gov't) is a large part of the 'value' of a long held family farm or woodlot. IMO,the 'value' of the land that is due to inflation should not be taxed upon inheritance. Inflation is theft by gov't.

  • Doug –

    Have you paid any attention to what has happened to land values in the last 4 years?

    Meanwhile, look at what has hapened to wealth distributoin since the reign of St. Ronnie.

    If inflation is theft by the government, then I guess deflation is government largesse.

    And it is such a treat to live in deflationary times. (Cf 1932)

    For your penance, go read some Krugman.

    With comprehension.


  • Repeal of the Estate Tax=Paris Hilton Benefit Act, and everyone wants Paris Hilton to continue her lifestyle after her parents die!! I know I wouldn't sleep well if I knew Paris Hilton were to suffer after paying an Estate Tax. Right!!

  • But Americans should insist they take the right action. Is this asswipe for real? By 2011, there will probably be less than 100 people left in America who make more than 10 mil a year. Has he bothered to ask the 'help' who come to clean his McMansion how the rest of America lives these days?

    Their M.O is so lamely transparent, it's dispiriting to think that there are still rubes who fall for it.
    1 Take a piece of policy detrimental to the super-rich.
    2 Announce that it punishes 'hard-working Americans.'
    3 'Explain' that it does so by 'destroying jobs.'
    4 Clamor for its repeal.
    Lather, rinse, repeat. Insert references to the American Dream.

    30% are killed in the initial blast… Nice. Reinstating the estate tax (are there mid-alliterations? Mid-rhymes?) is like going Hiroshima on the hard-working aristocracy's ass. Their butt might hurt from being taxed so hard on money they didn't earn.

  • displaced Capitalist says:

    I'm confused. If the Hancocks have been in business for six generations, then they have been subject to the "death" tax for at least three of them. How come this is only becoming an issue now? (Oh right it's because we have an islamo-fascist-negro-socialist president.)

    Secondly, holy corporations Batman! If the family business wants to keep operating even after the owners die they should form a corporation! Get this family a lawyer stat!

    What a moron.

  • On on only slightly related note I think I have to mention that just reading Hammond Lumber made all the radio and tv commercials from my childhood play in my head, complete with thick Downeast accent.

  • I was given a link to your Palin review. After reading it and venturing to this post I emphatically want to urge you to write a book. If Chuck Klosterman can make a mint giving his funny, but less sophisticated, opinion then you could definitely make well over $3,000,000- though you'd need to spend it NOW as the death tax could vaporize it all in a flash!

  • "The death tax is a job killer. Heritage Foundation economists found that the federal levy leads to the loss of between 170,000 and 250,000 potential jobs each year."

    Dear Ed, I have some troubles finishing my homework in time, would you be kind enough to help me out?

    "Bob" has "X" amount of money, and 10 employees who earn him another (X*0,1) amount of money every year.
    Bob can spend X on yachts, private airplanes, mansions, investment's or on up to 10 employees in the US or up to 20 in India.
    "Bob" dies, and leaves everything to his son "Jim"

    "Jim" gets (X*0,8) and can buy yachts, private airplanes, mansions, investment's or on up to 8 employees in the US or up to 16 in India.
    Uncle Sam takes (X*0,2) and employ 2 policemen or firemen in the US.

    How many jobs are lost in the US?

    Ed: "170,000 and 250,000 potential jobs each year."

    Thank you very much Ed. But ms. teacher demands that I show the math, can you show me?

    Ed: "No"

    No? Ok….

  • Desargues:

    You're looking for (in this case) consonance (the repetition of consonant sounds in the middles of successive words, in this case an "s" sound). Mid-rhymes/middle-alliteration could also be assonance (the repetition of vowel sounds in the middles of successive words).

    Tom Luffman:

    I concur.

    Dr. Ed:


  • Ed, you're in rare form today. One of your better efforts I think, you had me in constant laughter.

    "Inflation(caused by the gov’t)"

    [head slap]. No. Just… no. Next you'll be telling us that market crashes are caused by the government, and also AIDS, romantic misfortune and bad hair days.

    Introducing the wingnut flow chart.

    Here is a thing. Is it bad?

    If yes -> Caused by the government!!!1

    If no -> Freeeeeeedooooooommmmmm!!!!

  • Thanks, Peggy, However, I tried to pull off a mightier feat, if I may be allowed — use '-stat-' twice in neighboring words. A group of letters, then, not just a consonant. Is there a term for that?

  • This guy is a retard, my family has owned land in Kansas for 100 years & never had a problem. Moron want a tax attorney? Granted he owns 10x our land plus or minus some.

  • *sigh* This shit is why I'm sad to be conservative….

    There are literally hundreds of valid points in support of and against estate tax and yet he manages to make NONE of them…

    But as a side note, are you suggesting that those small sole proprietor businesses who are hardest hit by this tax (seeing as they, unlike corporations, pass down the business and all the capital investment in it rather than just income and personal property) should be punished because the "moved your job to Indonesia"? Last time I checked, not a lot of small businesses had enough capital to a) buy foreign holdings b) ship goods to the U.S. and c) hire all the lawyers needed to deal with the legal mess caused by a and b. Or wait… maybe you want to punish them because their children are being handed millions in assets that they will then use to create jobs and buy products in the U.S.

    Now obviously, anyone who "owns" a corporation (i.e. their stock, not capital investment) would by happy to be rid of the estate tax, allowing their kids keep all of their "unearned income". One can certainly argue that making the rich who own (basically) only liquid assets pay most of it at death provides social benefit by making the kids create new wealth. Isn't it silly, though, to make family businesses either keep up to half of their assets liquid (and thus not creating jobs, and not creating demand for goods because they can't spend it) or requiring the the whole or part of the family business be liquidated each generation to pay off a large tax?

    I would think that just letting those businesses be would be much more economically optimal. Its a simple fix too. You just make an exception for property necessary for the family business. Sure there would be legal loop-holes, but saving so much economic growth while still punishing the job exporters you so love to hate would be worth it.

  • Jake –

    Better to simply abandon conservatism, (and the canard of taxation as punishment) altogether.

    From a report to Congress:

    Evidence suggests, however, that only a small fraction of estates with small or
    family business interests have paid the estate tax (about 3.5% for businesses in
    general, and 5% for farmers, compared to 2% for all estates). Recent estimates
    suggest that only a tiny fraction of family owned businesses (less than ½ of 1%) are subject to the estate tax but do not have readily available resources to pay the tax. Thus, while the estate tax may be a burden on those families, the problem is confined to a small group.

    JzB the librull trombonist

  • Apparently there are no estate attorneys in Maine available for consultation on this generations. For six generations. My, my.

  • If congress does nothing then the estate tax comes back at the original rate, because Bush passed the tax reduction under reconciliation and it increased the deficit, it was required to sunset automatically after 10 years. All they have to do is not act to get rid of the estate tax. One of the few times that Democrats can accomplish their goals through obstruction alone.

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