TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Connie Mack on the Estate Tax, Fiscal Discipline

Today's New York Times interveiw with Connie Mack, co-chair of the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, contains this gem of an exchange on the estate tax:

NY Times:  [President Bush] is still calling for tax cuts. He would like to eliminate the estate tax permanently.

Mack:  I think there is a likelihood that Congress will deal with that issue before this term comes to an end. I would vote to eliminate, as we refer to it, the death tax. I think it's an unfair tax.

NY Times:  Really?  I think it's a perfect tax. The idea behind it was to allow people to postpone paying taxes until they die, at which point they presumably no longer care. Why do you call it unfair?

Mack:  Well, let's say, if you are in the farming business and you have the desire to pass this farm on to your children. The problem is that when your parents die, you have to come up with cash to pay the estate tax. One thing you don't have is cash. You've got plenty of land. So I just don't believe it's a fair tax.

NY Times:  That strikes me as a red herring. The issue is not really small farms, but zillion-dollar estates made up of stocks and bonds.

Mack:  I don't know what the percentage breakdown is. I still go back to the same notion that these individuals who have accumulated these resources have paid taxes on them many times in their life, and then to say, when you die, now you pay more taxes on it? There is a limit.

And then this exchange on fiscal (ir)responsibility:

NY Times:  Well, the U.S. government has to get money from somewhere. As a two-term former Republican senator from Florida, where do you suggest we get money from?

Mack:  What money?

NY Times:  The money to run this country.

Mack:  We'll borrow it.

NY Times:  I never understand where all this money comes from.  When the president says we need another $200 billion for Katrina repairs, does he just go and borrow it from the Saudis?

Mack:  In a sense, we do. Maybe the Chinese.

NY Times:  Is that fair to our children? If we keep borrowing at this level, won't the Arabs or the Chinese eventually own this country?

Mack:  I am not worried about that. We are a huge country producing enormous assets day in and day out. We have great strength, and we have always adjusted to difficulties that faced us, and we will continue to do so.

Makes one feel good that the tax reform agenda is in such capable hands!

Update:  Stuart Levine offers a biting critique in Connie Mack Should Have Listened To Abraham Lincoln: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

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