Earlier this week we took a look at the GOP efforts to repeal the death tax, including some of the political pitfalls involved as well as reasons why it’s still a hill worth fighting on. In a rare moment of taking a position on a policy issue, Hillary Clinton has chimed in on the so called estate tax several times over the years. She has referred to it as a “wealth tax”, which works out quite well for her this year if she’s trying to angle her way into a more Elizabeth Warren style position on the subject. So she’s in favor of it, right?
As the Republican National Committee pointed out this week, you always need to check and see which side of her mouth Hillary is speaking from and whether or not her actions match her words.
“Using Financial Planning Strategies Befitting The Top 1 Percent,” Clinton Has Shielded Her Estate From The Same Death Tax She Supports. “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.” (David Montgomery, “The Clintons Are Coming And Chappaqua Braces,” The Washington Post, 9/4/99)
That seems to be a rather marked contrast from this, wouldn’t you say?
Clinton Has Called The Death Tax A “Wealth” Tax, But Shields Her Own Wealth From It. CLINTON: “The truth is, we do not have a death tax in America. There is no such thing as a death tax. People do not pay taxes at death. We have an estate tax, which is really a wealth tax that is based on people having a certain level of assets.” (Sen. Hillary Clinton, Congressional Record, 6/12/02, p. S5420)
The strategies in question involve setting aside assets in trusts, and such things are common among more than simply the super wealthy. And just to be clear, I don’t begrudge Bill or Hillary the option of taking advantage of trust funds and other strategies to manage their impressive wealth any more than I would deny them the opportunity to amass that wealth in the first place. This is America and everyone should have the chance to make their own fortune (provided their gains are legally gotten) no matter your political ideology. If the Clintons can manage to make a hundred million and they want to make sure it rolls on down to Chelsea and their new grandchild, more power to them.
But with that said, we are absolutely free to highlight the rather blatant hypocrisy on display here when the actions of the Clintons are so directly in contrast with the bunkum she tosses around in speeches such as the one highlighted in the Washington Post piece above. If you are opposed to the aggregation of generational wealth because it adds to the burden of income inequality, the least you could do is walk the walk. Pay the tax and spread that wealth around to your less affluent neighbors!
To give Hillary at least some credit here, this is perhaps one area where she’s been consistent. (Unlike her stance on ethanol, for example.) Back during her first run against Barack Obama in 2007 she was singing the same song.
Clinton Opposed Repealing The Death Tax While Running For President In 2007. HILLARY CLINTON: “Well, I do not believe the estate tax should be repealed. I think it has been very cleverly designated as a death tax; it’s really a tax to prevent us from having inherited wealth generation after generation which would really undermine the kind of spirit and meritocracy that the United States stands for. And there are a lot of economic reasons why it is just not affordable.” (CNBC’s “Fast Money,” 12/11/07)
Clinton In 2007: “I Will Strongly Support The Maintenance Of The Estate Tax.” (CNBC’s “Fast Money,” 12/11/07)
The Democrats all feel this is a “safe” position to take this year since it gets lumped in with populist tax policies in general, so it’s no surprise if Clinton is actually willing to take a stand on it. But as time wears on, she may get a surprise when she learns that working people who do manage to put something aside for their kids would like to be able to hold on to it.