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Wealthy Americans ask for higher death tax

While Republicans in the fiscal cliff negotiations are fighting hard against tax increases, some of the wealthiest Americans actually want an increase in one specific tax — the estate tax.

Except the estate tax, or death tax as it is aptly called, is something these wealthy individuals themselves will not have to pay.

During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, a group of wealthy, influential businesspeople and leaders gave statements in support of a higher estate tax that what President Obama is proposing and put forth their own estate tax proposal, in partnership with the Responsible Wealth Project.

“If we who have been privileged in life weren’t paying our fair share of taxes, somebody else is going to have to pay them and it will be inevitably those who are less able to do so than we fortunate few are,” John Bogle, founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group, said on the phone call.

Bogle was joined by Robert Rubin, former treasury secretary, Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy Disney, Richard Rockefeller, great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, and Mike Lapham, director of the Responsible Wealth Project. The estate tax proposal has also been signed by former President Jimmy Carter, wealthy businessmen George Soros and Warren Buffett.

The call participants argued that the estate tax needs to be high in order to prevent cuts to entitlement programs. Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy Disney, said the tax would also help reduce the income and wealth gaps, the existence of which she called “inconsistent with my values as an American and a patriot.”

It’s no surprise that billionaire Warren Buffett also heartily backs the estate tax. Buffett has not been shy about his love of taxing the wealthy. And while Buffett has not previously been silent on the estate tax, it reaches a broader American audience when inserted into the fiscal cliff talks.

Of particular importance is that the death tax is not paid by those currently arguing for it; it is paid by their children and grandchildren. The estate tax claims a percentage of an estate upon the estate holder’s death, meaning none of these individuals will be directly impacted by their proposed estate tax changes. And, Republicans argue, when that estate is a family-run small business a death tax could drive it into the ground.

And frankly, some of the entitlement programs need cuts. The government cannot keep spending at the current levels, with the U.S. debt increasing by more than $48,000 a second during Obama’s first three years in office.

Taxing Americans, even those who can arguably afford it, will not rescue the nation from this massive hole it has dug itself into. And it certainly won’t keep us from going over the fiscal cliff.


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