Having failed spectacularly at health care reform, Republicans are now taking a shot at deforming the tax code. One of their key priorities is passing an estate tax repeal, which in the pantheon of bad ideas ranks right up there with helping Ted Cruz lift a couch into the back of an ice cream van at midnight.
In a speech in Indianapolis yesterday to promote his tax-reform plan, Donald Trump said this:
"To protect millions of small businesses and the American farmer, we are finally ending the crushing, the horrible, the unfair estate tax, or as it is often referred to, the death tax. That means, especially for all of you with small businesses that are really tremendous businesses, you’ll be able to leave them to your family, and your family won’t have to run out and do a fire sale to try and get the money to pay the tax. ... The farmers in particular are affected. They have wonderful farms, but they can't pay the tax, so they have to sell the farm. … So that death tax is a disaster for this country and a disaster for so many small businesses and farmers."
That’s all nonsense, of course. Politifact rated the statement “Pants on Fire,” because in the real world hardly anyone pays the estate tax. It applies only to estates valued at $5.49 million or less. What’s more, so few farmers pay the tax that they’re hardly worth mentioning. Which is why Trump mentions them, of course.
How about small businesses and farms? The [Tax Policy Center] projected that only about 80 small farms and closely held businesses would pay any estate tax in 2017. That would amount to about 1 percent of all payers of the estate tax that year. And the estate tax revenue from small businesses and farms, the center said, would amount to fifteen-hundredths of 1 percent of the total paid under the estate tax in 2017.
So, getting rid of the estate tax would hardly "protect millions of small businesses and the American farmer," as Trump put it.
So if Trump’s story about poor, salt-of-the-earth dirt farmers getting harassed into bankruptcy by dastardly revenooers is nothing but a Republican folk tale, what story can we use to best illustrate the effects of an estate tax repeal?
Here’s a good one, and Politifact can feel free to check it:
If the estate tax is repealed and Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, and Barron receive equal portions of Donald Trump’s 10-BILLION-DOLLAR* estate (we’ll assume Melania has long since retreated to Slovenia in shame), Don Jr.’s and Eric’s share will be $2 billion each.
According to TravelandLeisure.com, the average cost of an African safari is $800 to $1,000 per person per night. Let’s just round it up to $1,000 — they’ll probably want to get some Arby’s choppered in for lunch. So if Don Jr. and Eric pooled their tax-free inheritance, they could pay for 4 million nights of safaris. (And we know how much they love traveling to Africa to kill animals.)
Of course, unless they’re vampires — and let’s not rule that out — they won’t live long enough to actually go on all those safaris. They’d have to live for almost 5,500 years each, and even with a monthly Dick Cheney-style organ-transplant regimen, that would be impossible. But Trumps love to delegate, and by giving away safaris to campaign donors, business associates, and Russian internet trolls, they could completely wipe out, say, the world elephant population in no time.
Assume the Trump brothers hire the most eager, bloodthirsty hunters they can find, and those dicks are able to kill one elephant a day.
According to Defenders of Wildlife, as many as 740,000 elephants currently live in the wild. The Trump brothers’ posse could easily kill all the wild elephants in Africa and Asia and still have billions left over for all the leopards and zoo elephants.
Far-fetched? Maybe. But it’s far more realistic than Trump’s tall tale about the millions of ruined farmers who would have made it in America but for the “death tax.”
But he’ll keep repeating that story anyway. And 10 years from now another Republican will repeat it. And on and on into infinity — or at least until they find some shame. And you know that will never happen.
*No way does Trump have $10 billion, but that’s what he claims. For the record, Forbesestimates his net worth at $3.5 billion. Of course, if Trump had let competent real estate investors handle his own inheritance, he’d currently be worth $13 billion more than that.