Hillary Clinton Wants to Raise Taxes on Wealthy Heirs


Hillary Clinton has proposed an increase in the estate tax:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would levy a 65% tax on the largest estates….generate $260 billion over the next decade, enough to pay for her plans to simplify small business taxes and expand the child tax credit….The Clinton campaign changed its previous plan—which called for a 45% top rate—by adding three new tax brackets and adopting the structure proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont during the Democratic primaries. She would impose a 50% rate that would apply to estates over $10 million a person, a 55% rate that starts at $50 million a person, and the top rate of 65%, which would affect only those with assets exceeding $500 million for a single person and $1 billion for married couples.

But but but, capital formation! Where will the American economy manage to dredge up any capital if we raise taxes on billion-dollar estates? Plus, as the straight shooters at the Wall Street Journal editorial page point out, there’s inflation. Using current dollars, a decade from now that top rate of 65 percent will apply to married couples with a mere $900 million in taxable assets. Surely we can’t be serious about this?

And how many people does this affect? Well, in 2014 there were a grand total of 223 estates worth $50 million or more. Given the power-curve nature of income, this suggests that there were maybe, oh, five estates worth $500 million. That’s something on the order of a thousand rich kids who will have to pay 15 percent more than the current top rate and maybe a dozen or so who would pay 25 percent more. Those dozen or so would inherit a mere $350 million instead of $600 million. That’s a grim fate, to be sure, but I suppose they’ll manage to soldier on.

As for all those farmers and family businesses who will be devastated? Forget it. There aren’t any—unless you consider the Trump Organization to be a small family business.

As with most policy proposals in this campaign, this is more for show than anything else. A Republican Congress won’t take up the estate tax again. Still, it’s designed to show whose side Hillary Clinton is on, and it does a pretty good job of that.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate