Political Missteps on the Estate Tax

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"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.’'

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 Boston.com

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