But Republicans still consider this tax an unacceptable burden on the rich. The Senate bill would double the exemption to $22 million; the House bill would eliminate the estate tax entirely.
So now let’s talk dollars. CHIP covers a lot of children, but children’s health care is relatively cheap compared with care for older Americans. In fiscal 2016 the program cost only $15 billion, a tiny share of the federal budget. Meanwhile, under current law the estate tax is expected to bring in about $20 billion, more than enough to pay for CHIP.
As you see, then, my question wasn’t at all hypothetical. By their actions, Republicans are showing that they consider it more important to give extra millions to one already wealthy heir than to provide health care to a thousand children.
Are there any possible defenses for this choice? Republicans like to claim that tax cuts pay for themselves by spurring economic growth, but no serious economists agree — and that’s the case even for things like corporate tax cuts that might have some positive economic effect. Applied to inheritance taxes, this claim is beyond absurd: There is no plausible argument to the effect that letting wealthy heirs claim their inheritance tax-free will make the economy boom.
What about the argument that estate taxes are a burden on small businesses and family farms? That’s a total, thoroughly debunked myth: Each year only around 80 — eight-zero — small businesses and farms pay any estate tax at all. And when you hear about family farms broken up to pay estate tax, remember: Nobody has ever come up with a modern example.
Then there’s the argument of Senator Chuck Grassley that we need to eliminate estate taxes to reward those who don’t spend their money on “booze or women or movies.” Yes, indeed, letting the likes of Donald Trump Jr. inherit wealth tax-free is a reward for their fathers’ austere lifestyles.
Meanwhile, here’s the funny thing: While there is zero evidence that tax cuts pay for themselves, there’s considerable evidence that aiding lower-income children actually saves money in the long run.
Think about it. Children who get adequate care are more likely to be healthier and more productive when they become adults, which means that they’ll earn more and pay more in taxes. They’re also less likely to become disabled and need government support. One recent study estimated that the government in fact earns a…