The inheritance tax is a tax on inherited wealth that is paid by the very wealthiest of American families, the Rockefeller's, Hilton's, DuPont's, Kennedy's and Vanderbilt's to name just a few.
These are the rarefied folks who were born with a silver steam shovel in their mouths!
It was one of their own, Republican President and former rough rider, Teddy Roosevelt, who first proposed a tax on inherited wealth, although it did not become law until 1916, eight years after he left office.
Roosevelt believed that the transmission of enormous wealth to young men ''does not do them any real service and is of great and genuine detriment to the community at large.''
What really mattered, according to Roosevelt, was to have a national community based on citizens' political equality, relative economic equality and interdependence.
For Roosevelt, the inheritance tax was a moral issue as well as an economic one. ''If ever our people become so sordid as to feel that all that counts is moneyed prosperity, ignoble well-being, effortless ease and comfort,'' he warned, ''then this nation shall perish, as it will deserve to perish, from the earth.'' Wealth, he declared, should only be ''the foundation on which to build the real life, the life of spiritual and moral effort and achievement.''
His cousin President Franklin Roosevelt echoed these themes in the middle of the Great Depression when he argued: ''The transmission from generation to generation of vast fortunes by will, inheritance or gift is not consistent with the ideals and sentiments of the American people...'Inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our Government.''
Not according to the modern Republican Party whose Senator Jon Kyl ( R, Arizona) is proposing a $200 billion inheritance tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Most of the windfall would go to estates valued at more than $10 million per person, the richest 0.1 percent.
The government would have to borrow to make up for this $200 billion giveaway to rich heirs, worsening the deficit and adding about $100 billion in interest to the nation’s tab. To put it simply you, your children and grandchildren would finance this tax cut for the super rich!
The New York Times editorialized against this irresponsible money grab today. It is linked here.