While I come down on the conservative side of most issues, I deviate - somewhat - on the permanent abolition of the estate tax, known by its detractors as the "death tax."
Mainstream conservative thought (assuming "mainstream conservative" is not a self-contradicting term) posits that, since the dead person's money was already taxed as it was earned, it shouldn't be taxed again upon death.
To that I say - why not? If it is not taxed again, it will go - untaxed - to persons who did no more to earn it than did the average American taxpayer. It seems to me a rather painless way to pay down the deficit that is owed by all of those taxpayers. We've got to the the money from somewhere. Why not from people who would never get to spend what they earned anyway?
But, opponents say, it would only be a drop in the bucket if we confiscated a big percentage of the estates of the super-rich. Well, one drop is better than no drops. And I think society has a valid interest in preventing the creation of a super-elite class based solely on the inheritance of fabulous wealth. Elimination of the estate tax for the ultra-wealthy is counter to the American ethos of self-reliance, and it threatens to aggregate too much power in the hands of too few. Do we really want the heirs of George Soros or Bill Gates to wield that much economic power over the rest of us?
But, opponents say, it destroys small businesses by forcing the kids who worked with their parents to build a business to sell it just to pay the tax. You know, like family farms and so forth. True. So, set the exemption high enough that small businesses would be immune: five million, ten million, whatever. If RFK Junior or Jay Rockefeller had not been forced to wait until the tax man was paid before they got their mega-millions, no small businesses would have been saved.
Driving home from work this evening, I heard a nationally-syndicated conservative radio talk show host say that if the majority owner of the New York Yankees hadn't died this year, while there is no estate tax, the Steinbrenner family might have been forced to sell the team. And he said it as if that were a bad thing! I couldn't care less.