"President Obama's Afghanistan troop surge decision caused considerable rancor among liberal House Democrats Tuesday at the same time they are being asked to vote this week on a measure cutting taxes for millionaires. [...]
The House bill would set the estate tax at 45 percent with an exemption for up to $3.5 million in inherited assets per individual, at a $234 billion cost. That figure would not require offsets under a deal House leaders struck with members of the Blue Dog Coalition, provided the Senate passes statutory pay/go language.
But that is an abstract concept to liberals weighing the cost of war and a tax cut for a small group of wealthy families. The House bill would head off the estate tax's scheduled 2011 increase to 55 percent, with the threshold lowered to $1 million. It would protect all but about 5,500 families, or the richest 0.2 percent from the tax, according to the Tax Policy Center.
That's not good enough for those who argue multimillionaires are still getting a free ride. 'I feel that it's a contradiction to vote on a tax break for people worth $3.5 million and above while we're sending troops overseas without any idea how we're going to pay for it,' said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter called the $234 billion cost a 'pretty astonishing figure' and suggested some of those revenues should be set aside to help pay for the war. 'The money is going to be needed here if indeed they get enough votes to pay for this adventure here in Afghanistan,' Slaughter said. [...]
Advocacy groups such as United for a Fair Economy have been plugging a higher estate tax rate and lower exemption as critical particularly given the state of the economy and need to create jobs. They support a bill from Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., that would set the exemption at $2 million per spouse, adjusted for inflation, with a progressively rising estate tax rate based on the value of an estate. For estates worth up to $5 million, the tax would be 45 percent, rising to 50 percent for up to $10 million and 55 percent for those above $10 million. That would cost about $203 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
In an alert to UFE members Tuesday, senior organizer for estate tax policy Lee Farris wrote the McDermott bill was the best policy 'because our country needs funds for long-overdue investments in health care, education, clean energy, and other public services -- not more tax breaks for the heirs of the richest 1 percent.'"
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