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June 8, 2006

Senate Rejects Misleading Lobbying Campaign of Moneyed Interests and Votes Against Estate Tax Repeal

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen

The Senate today did the right thing in rejecting the permanent repeal of the estate tax, and we applaud the 41 senators who voted for the interests of the American public. Repealing the estate tax would have created a trillion-dollar hole in the Treasury in just a decade – a highly irresponsible move in this time of war, continuous budget deficits and soaring energy prices.

With their vote, senators rebuffed a long-running, secretive campaign engineered by some of America’s wealthiest families. As documented in a recent report by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy, the families, including the Waltons of Wal-Mart, the Gallos of Gallo wine, and the Mars family, makers of M&Ms, have poured tens of millions of dollars into a dishonest campaign to convince the public and Congress that small businesses and family farms would be devastated unless the estate tax were repealed. In reality, just one-fourth of one percent of all estates in the country are affected by the tax, and repeal opponents have been unable to muster a single example of a family having to sell its farm to pay an estate tax bill.

There is already talk of another vote on a so-called compromise measure, but any deal cut should take into account who will have to pay the bill – the American public. Every penny going to an elite segment of super-wealthy heirs and heiresses would cost the vast majority of Americans in higher taxes or cuts to government programs. The cost of repealing the estate tax could be used to provide health insurance to every uninsured person in the United States.

Next, Congress should revoke the unconscionable free pass the wealthy are to receive in 2010, when the estate tax is scheduled to disappear for just one year. The Congress also needs to balance its budget and implement a strategy to pay down the monstrous debt it has run up since 2001, when we had surpluses as far as the eye could see. Repealing the estate tax would do just the opposite. It would leave the country with ever more debt and lead to higher taxes for regular Americans just to keep up on our interest payments. That’s an inheritance tax our children and grandchildren could happily live without.

To read Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy’s report on the deceptive lobbying effort to repeal the estate tax, click here.

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