Rep. Kristi Noem said her choice to abandon the House Agriculture Committee to move to House Ways and Means would mean she could do more for South Dakota.
She’d better be making good on that claim this week. Her leaders in the House had to delay the unveiling of their Trumpy tax plan to Thursday because Ways and Means is still debating (behind closed doors) deductions, top rates, and the estate tax.
Noem has offered no press releases since last Friday. She’s been awfully busy updating us with pictures of her adorable son and her crossfit muscles, but if we want details on tax reform, our lone Congresswoman tweets that we can text 50589 to get updates. I’ll be darned if I’m going to pay money to help her harvest my phone number for ongoing propaganda. Wouldn’t it be easier to just hold public hearings, the way committees are supposed to do, and allow the press to cover the proceedings?
We can only hope that Ways and Means will muscle aside Rep. Noem’s signature issue, the estate tax that didn’t take away her family farm or anyone else’s. The only people really hollering about the estate tax are the tiny fraction of rich people who end up paying it:
Regardless, the debate may come back to one central fact: Just two out of every 1,000 Americans who die end up with an estate tax bill. If you’re single and you die with less than $5.49 million to your name, you—or rather, your heirs—don’t have to worry. Couples can shield $10.98 million from the estate tax, and the right planning can shield millions more. The official rate is 40 percent, though IRS data show that the effective tax rate is more like 17 percent.
Though its repeal has been central to Republican tax philosophy for years, some GOP senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, have expressed skepticism about ending the tax, which brought in $18 billion last year. Keeping it could help offset the deep business and individual income-tax rate cuts Republicans want.
…“If anything, I think we should be strengthening the estate tax,” said New York University professor Lily Batchelder, who worked in former President Barack Obama’s administration. “It’s the most progressive tax we have” [Ben Steverman, “Why the ‘Death Tax’ May Not Matter Anymore,” Bloomberg, 2017.10.31].
Of course, the fate of the estate tax and the form of the total tax reform package might already be settled and public if committee members like Rep. Noem worked a few full five-day weeks and even a weekend of two (the fate of the country is worth a little overtime) and if they had a President who thought that crafting practical compromise and legislation required more than 140-character tantrums and superlatives repeated to the point of meaninglessness.