A link that's sort of buried in Kevin Drum's (very good) post on the estate tax is worth dredging up and highlighting. According to a recent report by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy, the campaign to repeal the estate tax has been largely financed over the past ten years by some 18 families worth $185.5 billion. The families have spent $490 million on lobbying efforts, and stand to gain some $72 billion from a permanent repeal, which is currently being considered by the Senate. Clever way to invest, I'd say.
Anyway, about a year ago I looked at the actual campaign to repeal the estate tax, which has always been short on facts and long on emotional appeals. Indeed, it's not even clear that factssuch as the idea that only a handful of small businesses and millionaires pay the tax, or the fact that repealing it would cost the treasury a staggering $1 trillion over the next decadeplay much of a role in this debate. There are modest ways to reform the estate tax, such that, as Kevin says, "the Paris Hiltons of the world would still end up paying no more on their inheritances than most middle-class workers pay on their ordinary income." The people behind the repeal, of course, would rather pay nothing at all, and are certainly willing to spend the money to get there.