Thursday, June 08, 2006

Policy Corner: Won't Someone Think of the Farmers?!?!

(I promise, “Policy Corner” will only appear once in a while)

I am speaking today of that favorite bogeyman of the right, the estate tax.

The Senate Republicans are going to take time out of their busy gay-hating schedule Wednesday and Thursday to try to make permanent the 2001 phase-out of the estate tax, which, they will tell us, is about the most evil thing this side of, well, gay marriage. The Magic Diagnostician himself wrote an article about this on Monday, in which he lays out most of the GOP talking points, all of which run the gamut from “misleading” to “blatant lies.” In the interest of keeping this post to a manageable length, I’ll just focus on the worst, most misleading, most often repeated one:

“But Ann Bennett of Kingsport, Tenn., is a good representative of people who pay the tax.

Her family has farmed the same piece of land for nearly 130 years and already has paid over $100,000 in death taxes so that her father could acquire it from her grandfather. When her father passes on, she and her sisters will have to come up with $2 million or her family will have to sell.”

Ah yes, all the poor family farmers whose legacy is ripped away from them by the evil death tax! It’s an effective technique, casting the government in the role of Hazzard County Commissioner Jefferson Davis Hogg, trying to take the family farm away from one Jesse Duke, and deny his niece and nephews their rightful inheritance.

But it’s just not true. I hate getting in the way of a fine Republican talking point with, you know, “facts,” but this is a lie. Last year (when the bill passed the House), the Congressional Budget Office actually figured out how many family farms would have to have been sold in 2004 if the Democratic plan to reform the estate tax were in effect.


Yes, thirteen.

But, wait, I thought Bill Frist said that the family farmer he mentioned, Ann Bennett, was a “good representative of people who pay the tax.” About 2.4 million people died in the United States in 2004, and THIRTEEN were family farmers whose heirs had to sell part of the farm to pay the tax (that’s five ten thousandths of one percent, for those keeping track at home).

And for this we’re forgoing $1 trillion over the first ten years of repeal?

Out of curiosity, though, I also decided to see what I could find about this Ann Bennett. It turns out that she is quite the activist. In 1999, she turned up installing a Ten Commandments plaque in her local county courthouse. Then she turned up again in 2005, railing against the “homosexual movement.” And you thought “Republicans Hate Gay People Week” was over!

It sure is good to know that the Republicans are fighting hard to secure her inheritance so she can work tirelessly against the “homosexual movement!” Oh, and they’re fighting for these two, as well…

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