Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) has been garnering a lot of attention recently due to her position as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which gave her significant influence over the portion of Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) financial reform legislation dealing with derivatives. To the surprise of many (myself included), Lincoln’s legislation went further than Dodd’s and even includes a provision that would force commercial banks to spin off their derivatives trading desks.
But derivatives are not the only thing on Lincoln’s plate, and she wants everyone to know that one of her other priorities — slashing taxes for the heirs of multimillionaires — is still on her mind:
Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln is apparently not letting her primary opponent or her focus on derivatives regulations hamper efforts to permanently cut the estate tax. An aide said Monday Lincoln continues to have discussions with members and staff and that she “is very hopeful a deal will come together in the near future”…[Lincoln's spokeswoman] said she was as committed as ever to an estate tax fix. “[Lincoln] believes that an agreement can and should be reached by Memorial Day and that achieving a deal should be a priority,” she said.
Lincoln and her Republican counterpart, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), said that they are “virtually ready” to unveil legislation formalizing their intention to cut taxes for those at the very top of the income ladder.
Due to a Bush-era accounting gimmick, there is no estate tax this year, and the tax is set to come back at the Clinton-era level of 55 percent with a $1 million exemption next year. The Obama administration and many Democrats in Congress favor permanently setting the estate tax at the 2009 level, which is 45 percent with a $3.5 million exemption. But Lincoln and Kyl want to cut the rate to 35 percent and raise the exemption to $5 million, providing a $250 billion tax cut to the richest 0.2 percent of Americans.
The 2009 level exempts 99.8 percent of estates, and since the exemption is so high, the average effective rate those hit by the tax will pay is just 14 percent. With the government trying to grapple with long-term deficits that are unsustainable, it’s the height of irresponsibility to slash taxes for the very richest segment of the population.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has released an ad supporting Lincoln in her primary campaign against Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, citing her support for tax cuts for “small businesses and family farms,” which is the misleading right-wing claim used to justify cutting the estate tax. But make no mistake — cutting the estate tax as Lincoln and Kyl suggest is nothing more than a giveaway to the richest families that the country can’t afford.