Estate Tax Teleconference - July 2010

Estate Tax Teleconference - July 2010

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On Wednesday, July 21, 2010, United for a Fair Economy, with the support of our Responsible Wealth project, hosted a press teleconference to advance a powerful message to strengthen and permanently reinstate the federal estate tax.

We've got media coverage! Click here to view.

Our featured speakers:

  • Robert Rubin (see bio), U.S. Treasury Secretary 1995-99 under President Bill Clinton, formerly at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, currently at the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Richard Trumka (see bio), President of the AFL-CIO
  • Abigail Disney (see bio), grandniece of Walt Disney, Founder and President of the Daphne Foundation in New York City, Vice Chair of Shamrock Holdings board
  • Julian Robertson (see bio), founder Tiger Management hedge funds, now a private investor, philanthropist, founder of Robertson Foundation

Our speakers are joining us on the home stretch of UFE's decade-long battle to preserve the estate tax. After sharing their statements in support of a robust estate tax, the speakers addressed questions from members of both mainstream and alternative media outlets. 

IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE PRESS and would like to speak with UFE staff or the other speakers about the estate tax, please contact Maz Ali at 617-423-2148 x101 or [email protected].

For other inquiries regarding the estate tax, please contact UFE’s Estate Tax Policy Coordinator, Lee Farris at [email protected] or 617-423-2148 x133.

Thank you for your interest in this event.

USA Today logo

August 31, 2010

OP-ED: Mickey Mouse, the Estate Tax and Me

Abigail Disney, filmmaker, philanthropist and friend of UFE, shares the story of how government and taxation made her family's good fortune possible in USA Today.  Read more >>

AFP logo

August 1, 2010

"The question of death and taxes has risen to the fore in Washington as the demise of prominent billionaires has underscored a fluke which allows big estates to escape taxes, but only for this year.

Highlighting the conundrum has been the death of wealthy Americans including oil tycoon Dan Duncan and New York Yankees baseball owner George Steinbrenner, who can pass on their fortunes to heirs with no taxes. Duncan's fortune was estimated at nine billion dollars and Steinbrenner's at 1.1 billion by Forbes magazine. [...]

Some activists say the estate tax is progressive because it distributes wealth from the richest; but critics deride it as a "death tax" and claim it hurts farms and family businesses when an owner dies. [...]

Some wealthy Americans have been supporting a new estate tax, even if it may cost them a hefty sum.

A group of millionaires and heirs to major fortunes joined a call in July by United for a Fair Economy, a group fighting economic inequality, for a new estate tax.

Among those joining the call were hedge fund manager Julian Robertson and Abigail Disney, grandniece of Walt Disney. [...]"

Read the full AFP column by Rob Lever on Google News

Boston Globe logo

July 30, 2010

"LAST WEEK, Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and an heiress to the Disney family, defended the estate tax eloquently: 'My grandfather [Roy Disney] would be the first person to tell you that he’d managed to amass his fortune not in spite of, but because of, the American system,’' she said. 'After all, without reliable and safe roads there would be no such thing as Disneyland; without high-functioning legal systems and a well-regulated business environment there would have been no copyright protection for Mickey Mouse.’'// <![CDATA[ $(document).ready(function(){ var shared_object = SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: document.title, url: 'http://''?camp=misc:on:share:article' }); shared_object.attachButton(document.getElementById("ck_sharethis")); shared_object.attachChicklet("yahoo_buzz", document.getElementById("ck_ybuzz")); }); // ]]>

It’s a simple, powerful point: Even if they’re talented and have made every right move, the extremely wealthy do owe something to a system that provides them with countless legal protections and business advantages.

It’s too bad we haven’t heard Disney’s sentiments echoed from the Democratic Party. But it’s not surprising, because the estate tax is a case study in a common Democratic affliction: an inability to stay ahead of Republican messaging and to project a clear, compelling lawmaking narrative.

Since the 1980s, a small group of the nation’s wealthiest families have worked tirelessly with conservative politicians and activists to repeal the estate tax, and have largely succeeded in hijacking public perception of it through misinformation: that it greatly burdens small businesses and farms, and that it’s double taxation (numerous studies have shown it isn’t, and many inherited assets were never taxed in the first place). [...]"

Read the full column by Jesse Singal on

Washington Post logo

July 23, 2010

"It’s been said that only death and taxes are certain. But the 'death tax' is anything but certain now. There’s no estate tax this year -- costing the Treasury billions -- because Congress allowed it to expire.

With less than a fortnight before Congress’s August recess, United for a Fair Economy held a press conference call with a wonderfully eclectic mix of participants – including former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, heiress and filmmaker Abigail Disney and hedge fund pioneer Julian Robertsonall urging reinstatement of 'the most progressive tax in the code and the only national tax on wealth.'

They are facing some stiff opposition. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was on the Senate floor this week talking about heirs being forced to sell their property and how reinstatement of the estate tax would cost 1.5 million jobs as well as the collapse of many family farms and small businesses.

In fact, the American Farm Bureau was unable to find a single example of a farm having to be sold to pay the estate tax, as Lee Farris, UFE’s tax policy coordinator, pointed out. And the Senate and House bills supported by UFE – introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash) -- would be paid by only one-quarter of one percent of estates, or seven-tenths of one percent of estates, respectively. [...]"

Read the full column by Katrina Vanden Heuvel on

Slate logo

July 21, 2010

"So, a Treasury secretary, a labor union leader, a hedge-fund billionaire, and an heiress walk into a conference call. It's not a Catskills joke. It was the teleconference staged Wednesday morning by United for a Fair Economy's Responsible Wealth Project to discuss the need to reinstate the estate tax. [...]

The purpose of the press conference was to show that abolishing the estate tax massively increases the deficit in order to help a few very wealthy people. Former Treasury secretary and former Citi chairman Robert Rubin opened the call, playing the role of the wise establishmentarian. [...]

Second on the call was the union leader. [...] In [Richard Trumka's] worldview, the top 1 percent has been bogarting all the economic gains for the past few decades. [...]

Trumka was followed by the hedge fund magnate...To Julian Robertson, the founder of hedge fund giant Tiger Management and a major philanthropist, the economic and moral case for an estate tax increase was simple. 'You get out of a credit crisis by getting your house in order, and in America's case bringing your deficit down. This implies tax increases.' The fairest way to do it, he said, is to tax 'the least deserving recipients of wealth, which are the inheritors.'

Finally came the inheritor...Heirs who favor an estate tax are motivated less by liberal guilt than by unease, realism, and historical perspective. They've seen how their families amassed, preserved, and passed down wealth in spite of income and estate taxes that were far higher than they are today. 'My life of great comfort was made possible in spite of the estate tax," said Abigail Disney, the grandniece of Walt Disney, a filmmaker and philanthropist. [...]"

Read the full column by Daniel Gross on

The Hill logo

July 21, 2010

"Anti-poverty advocates, business groups and unions all realize it’s now or never for Congress to move on restoring the estate tax. [...]

On a conference call organized by [United for a Fair Economy] Wednesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin came together to support reinstating the tax. [...]

Both Rubin and Trumka said restoring the tax would be 'sound policy.' 'You would actually increase demand, not decrease demand, if you restored the estate tax immediately,' Rubin said. [...]

Trumka described the Lincoln-Kyl proposal as a weak compromise that he could not support, and the measure is unlikely to win the votes of liberal Democratic senators. [...]

He favors legislation sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Their bill would reinstate the estate tax at 2009 levels but include a more progressive tax rate.[...]"

Read the full article by Kevin Bogardus at

afl-cio logo

July 21, 2010

"New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and hundreds of other multimillionaires (and some billionaires, like Steinbrenner) who have passed away this year disproved the old adage, 'the only two things certain in life are death and taxes.' [...]

The federal estate tax that in the past applied to multimillion-dollar fortunes fully expired at the end of 2009, after President George W. Bush’s 2001 $1.35 trillion tax cut package for the wealthy exempted larger and larger estates from the levy each year.

Today, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, philanthropist and Walt Disney heir Abigail Disney and others called for a reinstatement of the tax. 

During a telephone press conference sponsored today by United for a Fair Economy (UFE), Trumka said:

'Today, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the suspension of the estate tax and other policies favoring the super-rich are key contributors to our nation’s budget deficits.

Our nation desperately needs revenue to invest in job growth, education, health and infrastructure.' [...]

The AFL-CIO, UFE and others on the call said the estate tax should be restored at its 2009 levels or stronger. [...]"

Read the full column by Mike Hall on the AFL-CIO News Blog

Washing Independent Logo

July 21, 2010

"[...] Partisan wrangling last year resulted in the estate tax dropping to zero in 2010, costing the government billions in revenue. Democrats hope to reinstate the tax for next year, exempting the first $3.5 million of a person or family’s estate and taxing the rest at up to 45 percent. That makes it the country’s most progressive tax, applying to less than one percent of estates. 

An alternative proposal, by Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), calls for an exemption of $5 million and a top rate of 35 percent. If the Senate does not act, the tax bounces back to 2001 levels, with an exemption of $1 million and a top rate of 55 percent. [...]

But today, some very, very wealthy folks publicly lobbied for the estate tax — essentially saying, “Take my money, please.” They argue that the tax encourages charitable giving and planning among wealthy families — and is good for the country. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have previously called for a high estate tax, and on fellow billionaires to give wealth away. And today, so did Bob Rubin, the former Treasury Secretary, a Disney heiress and a number of others. [...]"

Read the full column by Annie Lowrey on

CNN Money logo

"Some high-profile, high net-worth folks on Wednesday called on Congress to impose a 'strong' estate tax going forward.

'Our country is on an unsustainable fiscal path. [Revenue from an estate tax can] fund deficit reduction, additional public investment, or added assistance to those affected by the economic crisis,' said Robert Rubin, who served as Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration and more recently as chairman of Citigroup.

Moreover, Rubin added, 'our nation has always held itself out as a meritocracy and a land of opportunity, and an estate tax helps avoid accumulation of inherited economic and political power that is antithetical to this historical vision of our society.'

Rubin was joined by former hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, Walt Disney's grand-niece Abigail Disney and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on a call organized by liberal group United for a Fair Economy. [...]

Those who support an estate tax say, among other things, that it bolsters charitable giving, since making bequests is a tax-deductible event and reduces the size of one's taxable estate.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have called on billionaires to become uber-philanthropists by giving away at least half of their net worth to charity. Doing so would substantially reduce the taxes their heirs would owe and therefore greatly reduce Uncle Sam's take.

'It's a wonderful idea. But the nonprofit sector can't do what the government does,' said Disney, who runs the Daphne Foundation. She noted that directing money to a given cause is worthy but no substitute for putting money into a communal pot that the government can use to perform vital functions that no charity does -- like provide infrastructure and defense.

'What you do around estate taxes should not be to avoid paying your fair share,' she said."

Read the full column by Jeanne Sahadi on


July 21, 2010

"What do Disney heir Abigail Disney, hedge-fund billionaire Julian Robertson and former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin have in common? They want rich people to pay estate taxes and they say they're willing to pay those taxes themselves.

On Wednesday, Disney, Robertson, Rubin and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, joined with the advocacy group United for a Fair Economy to call on Congress to reinstate the estate tax before lawmakers' August recess.

"My life of great comfort was made possible in spite of the estate tax, and my grandfather would be the first person to tell you he was able to amass his fortune not in spite of but because of the American system," including that tax, Abigail Disney, grandniece of Walt Disney and granddaughter of Roy Disney, said in a conference call with reporters.

For his part, Julian Robertson, on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans in 2009, whose firm Tiger Management was one of the first hedge funds in the 1980s, said the estate tax is a key tool for lowering the government deficit.

"You don't get out of a credit crisis by borrowing more money. You get out of a credit crisis by putting your house in order, and in America's case by bringing its budget deficit down," Robertson said on the call. [...]"

Read the full article by Andrea Coombes on

Bloomberg logo

July 21, 2010

"Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Tiger Management LLC Founder Julian Robertson and an heir of Walt Disney urged Congress to reinstate a tax on multimillion-dollar estates, possibly retroactively.

The three were joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today to support efforts by a Boston-based advocacy group, United for a Fair Economy , pressing lawmakers to act before Congress adjourns for a month-long recess in August.

The deaths of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and at least three other billionaires this year has focused attention on the absence of the levy, which lapsed Jan. 1. Had they died in 2009, they would have paid as much as 45 percent on much of their estate, depending on how their wills were structured.

“We should restore the estate tax in its entirety, and restore it now,” Rubin, who was Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton , said on a conference call with reporters. He said making the tax retroactive to cover all of 2010 'should be very seriously considered.' [...]"

Read the full article by Ryan J. Donmoyer on


July 21, 2010

"Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin called on Congress to immediately reinstate the estate tax, and said lawmakers should consider re-imposing the tax on the heirs of wealthy individuals who escaped it by dying this year.

Rubin, who spoke during a conference call sponsored by liberal group United For a Fair Economy, said that retroactive tax increases are "ordinarily considered not a good thing." But that's because in many cases taxpayers will argue that they relied on the current tax code--a more difficult case to make when it comes to the timing of one's death, Rubin said.

Therefore, making the tax retroactive to Jan. 1 "should be very seriously considered," Rubin said.

The estate tax was repealed for one year beginning Jan. 1. Unless Congress intervenes, it will return in 2011 to tax estate wealth in excess of $1 million at a 55% rate. [...]"

Read the full article by Martin Vaughan of Dow Jones Newswires on Logo

July 21, 2010

"Hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson joined former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Disney heiress Abigail Disney in a teleconference call today to urge Congress to restore a hefty estate tax before it goes home for recess in August.

'America is in a situation where it needs every dollar it can raise and this, the inheritance tax , is the fairest way to raise it,' said Robertson, who described inheritors as 'the least deserving recipients of wealth.' Rubin, who made his money as a Goldman Sachs partner and executive, described the passing of untaxed wealth as 'antithetical' to the 'dynamism' of the American economy.

The conference call was sponsored by United for A Fair Economy, whose Responsible Wealth project has recruited more than 2,000 high-net-worth folks, including George Soros; William Gates Sr., the father of Microsoft founder William Gates III and Vanguard Group found Jack Bogle to sign a "Call to Preserve the Estate Tax. [...]"

Read the full column by Ashlea Ebeling and Janet Novak on

The Hill logo

July 21, 2010

"The unlikely duo of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that the estate tax — which has lapsed since the beginning of the year — should be put back in place before the August congressional break.

When asked why they both support reinstating the tax despite past differences, Trumka joked, “The reason we agree is Bob has finally seen the light.”

Rubin and Trumka have often clashed, with labor leaders warning Democrats to distance themselves from the free-trade policies advocated by Rubin and other Democrats with ties to Wall Street. [...]

Both Rubin and Trumka said restoring the tax would be 'sound policy.' [...]"

Read the full post by Kevin Bogardus on The Hill's "On the Money" blog

Business Insider logo

July 21, 2010

"Right now, millionaires and billionaires who die in 2010 can pass on their fortunes to heirs without any estate tax.

So, thanks to the expiration of 2001 Bush tax cuts and the year of Congress not doing anything about it, many somewhat cruel heirs have, maybe, a reason to hope their parents die this year.

Two guys that are now saying they want the estate tax reinstated ASAP, hopefully before August when Congress recesses, are Julian Robertson and Robert Rubin. [...]"

Read the full column by Courtney Comstock on


July 20, 2010

"Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Tiger Management founder Julian Robertson have joined a growing chorus calling for the U.S. estate tax, which expired last year, to be reinstated by Congress before its August recess.

The recent death of New York Yankees boss George Steinbrenner helped shine a spotlight on an unprecedented situation: millionaires and billionaires who die in 2010 can pass on their fortunes to heirs without any estate tax, thanks to the expiration of 2001 Bush tax cuts followed by a year of Congressional inaction.

Now a group that includes formerly Goldman Sachs co-head Rubin, hedge fund pioneer Robertson and Walt Disney heir Abigail Disney are calling on Congress to reinstate the estate tax before the August recess. These three, along with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will speak at a Wednesday press conference.

The estate tax, which was reduced in 2001 by the Bush Administration, expired at the end of last year. It has not yet been replaced amid debate over how high the bar should be set for exemption and how steep the rate should be. [...]"

Read the full article by Joseph A. Giannone on

The Hill logo

July 13, 2010

"With less than 30 legislative days left on the congressional calendar, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on Tuesday warned lawmakers that time is running out to fix the estate tax.

The tax is repealed, but barring congressional action will return next year to the pre-2001 levels that hit estates worth more than $1 million with a 55 percent tax. [...]

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), whose state is home to several family ranchers, has wanted to move an estate tax fix since January. [...]

Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) have tried to advance a bipartisan fix for the tax. But more liberal members in the Senate would likely have trouble supporting it, as they feel the estate tax falls mostly on wealthy taxpayers who can afford to pay it. [...]"

Read the full blog post by Jay Hefflin on

The Hill logo

July 7, 2010

"Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin will join several others in calling on Congress to reinstate the estate tax before the August recess. 

The July 21 event will be hosted by United for a Fair Economy, which has been fighting to preserve the estate tax since 1999.

Rubin is expected to discuss his reasons for supporting a permanent estate tax fix. [...]"

Read the full blog post by Jay Hefflin on

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