Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Democratic House leadership team, has an op-ed in today's Washington Post, arguing for the implementation of the death tax. Van Hollen makes this point in the final paragraph of his piece:
With Washington Republicans sharpening their budget knives to cut spending on national priorities such as education, border security and public safety, it is hard to believe they think it's wise to give a windfall to heirs such as Paris Hilton.
It's a typical rhetorical ploy -- suggesting that the Republicans are the party of Paris Hilton. But it's highly misleading. Republicans aren't too concerned about the financial welfare of Ms. Hilton, though many surely believe that her parents shouldn't be taxed again on money they earned when they die. Republicans want no death tax -- or at least, a low death tax -- to protect small business owners or farmers that might be passing down the family business or land to their heirs.
Imagine an owner of a mid-sized furniture store anywhere in America. The owner dies, leaving in his will the business to his children. Although he's not an extraordinarily wealthy guy, it's conceivable that if his inventory plus commercial property plus house plus bank account and mutual funds were added up it would be worth something worth over $3.5 million. Under the Democrats' death tax plan, his heirs would be taxed more heavily. These are the kinds of people that the Republicans are most concerned about -- not the Paris Hilton types.
(Oh, and since Van Hollen interjected Paris Hilton into politics, maybe it's worth remembering that she's not into old-white-haired dudes like John McCain.)