Hillary and Bill Clinton — you know, those scrappy, once-impoverished president and first lady — are strong backers of confiscatory estate tax rates for wealthy people. During her failed 2008 presidential run, Mrs. Clinton explained to voters in New Hampshire why she believed high death taxes on wealthy families’ estates are not only fair, but represent American values:
The first question from the audience after Clinton’s speech came from a woman who challenged her plan to pay for universal retirement accounts by freezing the estate tax at 2009 levels. The woman said the money from inheritance had already been taxed when it was earned and she felt taxing it again was the wrong way to fund Clinton’s plan. “People disagree about this, but the estate tax, which came into being by Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and others, and has been part of our tax system for a very long time is there for a real simple reason: In America, we’ve never liked the idea of massive inherited wealth,” Clinton replied. “Part of the reason why America has always remained a meritocracy where you have to work for what you get, where you have to get out there, make your case to people, come up with a good idea, is that we never had a class of people sitting on generation after generation after generation of huge inherited wealth.”
“Massive inherited wealth” isn’t the American way, you see, and rich people ought to pay their fare share. Plus, we earn our keep in this meritocracy of ours, thank you very much. We don’t need huge sums being passed down through generations, especially when the federal government could use that money to spread its trademarked compassion via investments in our children’s future, etc. Hillary expounded upon her populist tax policy message during a 2007 presidential debate:
[The Alternative Minimum Tax] was intended for people who were rich and evading taxes….I think that my husband was expressing an opinion that a lot of people who have been very fortunate and blessed over the last six-and-a-half years feel. You know, we have not been asked to sacrifice anything…We have the average American family losing $1,000 in income, and George Bush and his cronies can’t figure out how they can give even more tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans. Now, I never thought Bill and I would be in that category, to be honest with you, so it’s kind of a new experience. But it’s not one that makes us very comfortable because [the government] should be investing in new energy. We should be investing in college affordability, universal pre-K…”
Right out of the gate, Hillary says she’s a “great admirer” of this man, before moving on to demand more tax “sacrifices” from rich people such as herself — particularly as average Americans struggled to make ends meet. She never imagined she’d be uber-wealthy, she confesses, so her new reality makes her uncomfortable. The government really needs more money from people like her to fund its myriad munificent “investments” on behalf of the little guy, she concludes. How selfless. Heroic, almost. Over to you, Bloomberg News:
Bill and Hillary Clinton have long supported an estate tax to prevent the U.S. from being dominated by inherited wealth. That doesn’t mean they want to pay it. To reduce the tax pinch, the Clintons are using financial planning strategies befitting the top 1 percent of U.S. households in wealth. These moves, common among multimillionaires, will help shield some of their estate from the tax that now tops out at 40 percent of assets upon death. The Clintons created residence trusts in 2010 and shifted ownership of their New York house into them in 2011, according to federal financial disclosures and local property records. Among the tax advantages of such trusts is that any appreciation in the house’s value can happen outside their taxable estate. The move could save the Clintons hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes, said David Scott Sloan, a partner at Holland & Knight LLP in Boston. “The goal is really be thoughtful and try to build up the nontaxable estate, and that’s really what this is,” Sloan said. “You’re creating things that are going to be on the nontaxable side of the balance sheet when they die.” … In her last campaign, Clinton supported making wealthier people pay more estate tax by capping the per-person exemption at $3.5 million and setting the top rate at 45 percent, a policy Obama still supports.
Well, well, well. The Hillary-Obama plan would have substantially lowered the exemption threshold to ensnare more people, in addition to hiking the rate even higher than it became after 2013’s fiscal cliff deal. Fair shares, and all that. But the Clintons’ wealth is different. They’re more than happy to take advantage of financial planning strategies to shield as many of their assets from the federal government’s grasp as possible — or “evading taxes” as she called it in the clip above. It seems as though Mrs. Clinton’s comfort level with being fabulously wealthy is on the rise, even as average Americans’ incomes declined during the recession, then flat-lined. Maybe “massive inherited wealth” isn’t such a bad thing after all…if the beneficiaries are uniquely worthy, that is. Like, say, Chelsea and family. (Not that Chelsea has been hurting financially). Plus, why should Uncle Sam get his grubby fingers on any more of this cash than he already has? After all, as Hillary noted with Dianne Sawyer, she and her husband have already had to work twice as hard to amass their fortune because of all the existing taxes on the books. It’s almost as if she thinks that a second round of taxation on her money would be unfair, so she’s paying high-powered accountants to protect as much of it as possible. But what about all of those critical “investments” she urged so passionately on the campaign trail? Not to worry, those will be funded by others. She’ll see to it when she’s president.
Exit question (Allahpundit™): Will this issue come up during Hillary’s half-hour interview on Fox News this evening? For what it’s worth, the RNC will run this ad during her upcoming Fox and CNN appearances:
UPDATE – Remember this?