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Day of the Death Tax

I don't know the first thing about George Romero's politics, but I gotta believe he's proud that Congress keeps paying unintended homage to his living dead movie franchise.

Dawnofthe_1 Yes, the estate tax -- "death tax" to its ardent opponents -- is back, stalking the floor of the House of Representatives as I type. Lawmakers are trying yet another legislative maneuver to repeal this part of the tax code.

And the Washington, D.C., machinations are scarier than any of the flesh-eating zombies that roamed Pennsylvania fields and suburban shopping malls.

Does this latest legislative effort have enough life to kill the estate tax? It's hard to say, since there are so many factors coming into play here.

The House already passed full repeal, not just upping the exemption limit as proposed in this new bill. But I guess Capitol Hill feels like it doesn't need to move on just yet to other tax matters that haven't even been considered once this legislative session, like say some tax breaks that could help teachers and students and those of us paying high sales taxes.

No, they are revisiting the estate tax, a measure that even opponents have to concede affects only the tiniest portion of U.S. taxpayers.

This new estate tax bill the House is debating  right now is basically the compromise measure that failed to reach the Senate floor earlier this month. It was introduced in the House at the request of Senator/Doctor Frist so that it could be sent across the HiIl, giving the Senate another shot at at least reducing the estate tax.

But it's not a slam dunk. A lot of GOP House "death to the death tax" advocates don't want any compromise -- give me no death tax or give me death (sort of) -- they say ... and say and say.

Others of the fiscally conservative school don't like the cost factor of easing the tax.

Then there's the pork barrel sop to timber interests that I disucced in this post (section #2).

On the purely political side, if the Dems could sell it, just the fact that the Repubs are putting so much effort into this area -- on the heels of Congressional raises and the refusal to hike the minimum wage, not to mention blowing off renewal of the voting rights act -- would be good midterm campaign material. Again, IF ...

A few GOPpers might be hesitant about how such talk might play out in their districts. But probably only a very few, since voters keep saying it's OK to do fiscally irresponsible things as long as their federal representatives protect them from the horrors of and immediate personal damages they feel from Mexican workers (making even less than the minimum wage) and committed gay couples.

The bottom line: This estate tax modification vote will be close in the House. If it does make it over to the Senate, it will be even closer with the timber tax break lure.

And even if it does eventually become law, it will be back to haunt Congress and its rich political action campaign contributors in future sessions since it's only a lessening, not full repeal, of the estate tax.

That's really, really scary.


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