In his second inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
President Donald Trump has a very different idea. The Trump-publicans have enacted a tax overhaul that takes money away from the working people of America and borrows a great deal more on their behalf, so it can shower new riches upon the wealthiest among us.
The Trump tax law abolishes the estate tax, meaning that when people who own more than $5.5 million die, the nation that enabled their success will collect none of what they leave behind. Billions of dollars will pass untouched to the heirs the richest sliver of the top one percent, in a gift to the new emerging aristocracy that rules the United States now that democracy has died.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts about 50,000 coal mining jobs in the United States, but Trump seems enthusiastic about keeping the industry alive even though climate change — which is worsened by dirty fossil fuel emissions — can ultimately render the planet incapable of sustaining life. Coal mining is a lousy job.
The average salary for “coal mining” ranges from approximately $49,048 per year for Inspector to $66,546 per year for Underground Miner. Had Trump not repealed it, nobody in this highly dangerous line of work would be likely to pay any part of an estate tax. In fact, almost nobody who does any kind of real work is likely to inherit the vast sums that are subject to the estate tax.
The life of comfort and security afforded to those Americans with rich parents also means that any entrepreneurial spirit would be unleashed long before an inheritance comes along, so there no cause to suspect its demise will encourage an economic boom. Eliminating the estate tax is intended solely for the purpose to “add more to the abundance of those who have much,” to use Roosevelt’s words.
The estate tax, which can be as high as 40 percent, is only payable when the all the money and property owned by a person at death are worth more than $5.49 million (nearly $11 million for a couple), so only a small number of the very wealthiest multimillionaires leave enough that someone must pay it.
In one year when 2,626,418 people died, just 5,219 people had to pay any estate tax out of the entire US population of 323 million, according to official data. That means about one out of every 3,000 Americans had to pay some estate tax.
The government ended up taking less than 17 percent of the $108 billion that was owned by dead people. People inherited $90 billion after all the estate taxes were paid, or about 83 percent of the money that belonged to someone who died.
If a great uncle in Bismark died, would your chief worry be whether the inheritance was $107 million or $90 million? If President Trump dropped dead, would Ivanka’s life really change depending on whether her share of the inheritance was $760,760,761 or $912,912,913? People who ‘suffer’ from estate taxes do not understand that word.
Taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Without estate taxes, government needs to find another way to pay for mechanisms that establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to the American people.
Payroll taxes are Corporations contributed just 7.5% to the federal revenue, while the majority of actual income (as opposed to borrowing) comes from individual federal income taxes.
Income taxes contribute $1.836 trillion, half of the total federal revenue. Another third ($1.224 trillion) comes from payroll taxes, earmarked for specific purposes and levied on the first dollar earned by workers. This includes $892 billion for Social Security, $270 billion for Medicare and $50 billion for unemployment insurance.
Corporate taxes add $355 billion, only 10 percent of federal revenue. Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $146 billion, making up 4 percent. Just $23 billion of federal income comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts, about one half of one percent of the total $3.654 trillion federal revenue.
Remember the coal miner earning 50,000 per year? He is likely to pay $5,500 of that in federal income taxes plus $3,825 in payroll taxes, leaving him with less than $41,175 to live on. Ivanka’s estimated inheritance might have dropped, but she is still making money hand over fist with about $12 million in income. If she paid income taxes without sheltering or reinvesting any of that money, it would leave with with about $8 million to live on, or almost 200 times as much as our coal miner.
What you have left is really the measure of fair taxes, as opposed to what you pay. If I explain how rich people dodge the full cost of taxation, you may begin to doubt coal mining is a good job, as Ivanka probably has 250 times as much to live on after taxes.
Consider that the reduction in Ivanka’s imaginary inheritance cited above (and she is just one of five Trump children) could fully fund a number of programs that the White House is trying to eradicate. If that great uncle in Bismark left you $11 million, how would you be hurt? Would it bother you that Uncle Sam put $100 million or so to work funding national priorities, such as defense, education or environmental cleanup?
The same amount could cover costs for the death gratuity that is paid to the next of kin for 1,500 armed service members who die while on active duty or 55,000 people served by Meals on Wheels, a home-delivered nutrition service that feeds senior citizens 250 days per one year for roughly $2,765 each, so saving items on the Trump chopping block is not the only option. Here is an actual list of his proposed cuts:
Weatherization Assistance Program ($121 million): The program helps homeowners make their homes more energy efficient with grants of up to $6,500.
State Energy Program ($28.2 million): Gives grants to states to help them work on energy efficiency and anti-climate change programs.
Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property ($67 million): Obama also proposed the elimination of this program, which reimburses schools for lost tax revenue from tax-exempt federal properties in their districts.
International Education programs ($7 million): This line item funds a variety of exchange programs, migrant schools and special education services abroad.
Abandoned Mine Land grants ($160 million): The Trump administration wants to eliminate a discretionary grant program that it says overlaps with a $2.7 billion permanent fund.
National Heritage Areas ($20 million): These are state-and-federal partnerships to preserve natural, historic, scenic, and cultural resources.
National Wildlife Refuge fund ($13.2 million): This is a revenue-sharing fund that makes payments to counties where wildlife refuges are located from fees the Fish and Wildlife Service receives.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration training grants ($11 million)
The Strategic Climate Fund ($60 million) This helps vulnerable countries adapt development programs to confront the impacts of climate change.
Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund ($70 million): The account allows the president to “provide humanitarian assistance for unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs worldwide,” but Trump said the mission is best left to international and non-governmental relief organizations.
The East-West Center ($16 million): Chartered by Congress as the Center for Cultural and Technical Interchange Between East and West, the Honolulu-based nonprofit has a mission of strengthening relations among Pacific Rim countries.
NASA Office of Education ($115 million), which the Trump budget says duplicates efforts by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.
African Development Foundation ($26 million): An independent foreign aid agency focusing on economic development in Africa.
Appalachian Regional Commission ($119 million): A 52-year-old agency focused on economic growth in 420 counties.
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board ($11 million): The agency was created by the Clean Air Act of 1990 and investigates chemical accidents.
National Endowment for the Arts ($152 million): Encourages participation in the arts.
National Endowment for the Humanities ($155 million): Supports scholarship into literature and culture.
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. ($175 million): Better known as Neighborworks America, the organization supports local affordable housing programs.
Northern Border Regional Commission ($7 million): A regional economic development agency serving parts of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Overseas Private Investment Corp.($63 million): Encourages U.S. private investment in the developing world.
U.S. Institute of Peace ($40 million): Government-run think tank focusing on conflict prevention.
U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness ($4 million): An independent agency coordinating the federal government’s efforts to reduce homelessness.
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars ($11 million): A program to provide scholarships and fellowships in social sciences and humanities.
Delta Regional Authority ($45 million): An economic development agency for the eight-state Mississippi Delta region.
Denali Commission ($14 million): A state and federal economic development agency for Alaska.
Inter-American Foundation ($23 million): Promotes “citizen-led grassroots development” in Latin America and the Caribbean.
U.S. Trade and Development Agency ($66 million): Promotes U.S. exports in energy, transportation, and telecommunications.
But while these are all cuts born out of greed, some of which will devastate normal Americans while others will only cost some convenience or diminish the quality of life, this is not about that. The real point here is that the Trump-publicans have enacted a tax overhaul that takes money away from the working people of America and leaves them deeper in debt.
Trump has America on course to owe $30 trillion to $35 trillion in a few years (the tab is greater than $21 trillion now) and when rich people get used to paying less taxes, you are going to need to adjust to paying more of them, because your political influence is being eroded at the same time as this massive economic shift.
This is the biggest heist of the middle class since TARP, because it compares in scale to the giant bank bailout. It also takes money directly our of your pocket, since most of the ‘tax cuts’ for individuals are temporary while those that help only the rich are permanent, under the law signed by Trump.
Trump and his Republican pals in Congress have truly robbed the poor and working class to enrich their super-wealthy benefactors, and there is nothing you can do about it because this is no longer a functional democratic republic.
It’s more like an auction, and you lose.
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