But former Republican Attorney General Mark Meierhenry says the estate tax is “one of the great accomplishments of the Republican Party“:
The Republicans of 1909 enacted the estate tax to insure equality of opportunity. President Roosevelt explained the role of government to this progressive party. The role of government “at every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle (by society) is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege and give to the life of every individual the highest possible value.”
Equality of opportunity for all citizens should be the test to judge Republican political candidates. Today, the conservative wing seeks to preserve and expand the privilege of the few. The call to repeal the estate tax is a move to preserve privilege of the ultra rich not to leave life’s playing field [Mark Meierhenry, letter to the editor, that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.07.29].
This year, the dearly departed don’t owe the IRS anything unless they leave behind more than $5.49 million. The marital deduction (passed in 1948) allows the departed to leave all assets to a spouse and pay no estate tax. Billionaires like Sheldon Adelson can engineer complicated trusts to escape the estate tax (a popular business in South Dakota) and keep their wealth concentrated. The rich already have enough advantages; the federal estate tax is a useful check on the unhealthy concentration of wealth, brought to us by Republican Teddy Roosevelt.