Lincoln and Kyl Trying to Make Budget-Busting Tax Cut Appear Cheaper

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By Ryan McNeely

Less than a year ago, Blanche Lincoln was hemming and hawing on her support for health care reform, insisting that any bill had to be deficit neutral. She also took a lead role in opposition to the public option because, she claimed, “we can’t afford” it — even though the public option scored as a deficit-reducer. But, she did ultimately vote for health care reform, which isn’t exactly a gimme for someone representing a state that Barack Obama lost by 20 points.

What, though, explains Lincoln’s partnership with deficit fraud Jon Kyl to radically cut the estate tax? It certainly isn’t deficit neutral — CBPP found that an earlier version of the Lincoln-Kyl amendment adds nearly a half-trillion dollars to the deficit over the first ten years. Big problem, right? Well, Lincoln has found a solution:

Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.) and Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) on Wednesday introduced a proposal to permanently set the estate tax rate at 35%. Estate wealth under $5 million would ultimately be exempted from estate taxes, but this exemption amount phases in over a 10-year period.

The phase-in is a change from legislation Kyl and Lincoln have introduced in the past and is meant to make the short-term cost of the bill appear smaller.

This framing, at least, is refreshingly candid about the cynicism and irresponsibility on display here. Journalists who take seriously future claims of deficit concerns from Kyl or Lincoln should beware Matt’s barn.

Maybe Lincoln is simply looking out for her constituents? Well it turns out that in 2008 only 83 Arkansas families ended up paying any estate tax after all the exemptions and deductions were applied. Arkansas, unlike about half of U.S. states, does not have a state estate tax. So we’re left with only one conclusion: Blanche Lincoln, like all Republicans and some conservative Democrats, simply believes that heirs of extremely rich people deserve lower taxes, deficits be damned.