Lame Duck Must Confront Tough Decisions on Taxes

The central decision confronting Congress during this lame-duck session is bringing the federal budget closer to balance. In 2000, America had a $236 billion budget surplus. But following 9/11 our nation fought two wars – and cut taxes rather than pay for them. A financial meltdown sunk us into the deepest recession since the great depression, reducing tax revenue and prompting new stimulus spending.
War spending totaled $1.3 trillion dollars through 2011. And 100,000 American troops served overseas – disproportionately from rural areas and modest-income families. More than 6,600 died and 45,000 to 90,000 suffered traumatic brain injuries requiring specialized care.

Service members and their families made profound sacrifices for our nation; the rest of us received a tax cut. It is appropriate to ask the richest Americans to share the sacrifice to reduce deficits. Repealing their 2003 tax cuts would raise $850 billion over 10 years covering two-thirds of direct war costs.

We should also tighten loopholes on the estate tax for the very wealthy. The current year estate tax credit exempts $10 million for a husband and wife. And loopholes allow wealthy families to exempt several times that amount.

The estate tax raises revenue and levels the playing field for ordinary Americans with those born to great wealth. It protects the free enterprise system, by countering the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

The richest Americans control a larger share of wealth than anytime in American history. We need their help in reining in the deficit.

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