More than 30 of the wealthiest Americans have signed a letter to Congress and the Obama administration arguing that the estate tax should be raised, not lowered, especially at a time when much of the political establishment is calling for the already economically vulnerable to surrender more of their financial security as the price for backing the country away from the so-called "fiscal cliff."
Several of the millionaires were featured at a news conference today organized by United for a Fair Economy. They are members of the Responsible Wealth coalition, and the statement they issued today calls for setting the estate tax threshold at $2 million for individuals and $4 million for couples. The current threshold is set at $10 million by a law that expires at the end of the year.
"We believe it is right to have a significant tax on large estates when they are passed on to the next generation. We believe it is right morally and economically, and that an estate tax promotes democracy by slowing the concentration of wealth and power," the statement reads.
This runs counter to a continuing movement by conservatives to eliminate the estate tax altogether, raise the ceiling so high that only a few ultra-rich individuals have to pay it, or set the tax rate at a level that it is not consequential to the people required to pay it.
One of the more eloquent defenses of the estate tax was delivered by Abigail Disney, a filmmaker whose grandfather was the brother of Walt Disney and co-founder of the Disney entertainment empire.
"Let me state this as plainly as I can," she said. "The current state of affairs is absolutely counter to my deepest values as an American. I have no desire to compound my already significant advantages, and the advantages of my children, especially on the backs of the middle class."
Disney and the other members of the Responsible Wealth coalition argue that a robust estate tax, targeted at the top 1 percent of estates, will generate the revenues needed to fund the infrastructure and services that made their prosperity possible, so that a new generation of business owners and workers can benefit. A high estate tax also encourages large charitable contributions. And, it ensures that wealth is not perpetually concentrated in the hands of a small, closed aristocracy, but that America can fulfill the promise of upward mobility and shared prosperity.
You can show your support for preserving and strengthening the estate tax by signing this petition.