THE ESTATE TAX....

THE ESTATE TAX. The Washington Post has a nice set of dueling op-eds on the estate tax today. They've matched up Sebastian Mallaby with doltish Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, which is a bit like setting a monkey in intellectual combat with his banana. It's proof, no doubt, that the editorial page's overlords treasure the estate tax, and are seeking to discredit its repeal by choosing an incompetent opponent. There will be no complaints from this corner though -- repealing the estate tax is a foolish idea, moronic enough that Mallaby can pen a rhythmic column that keeps ending each explanation of a fundamental problem for the US economy with the refrain that repealing the estate tax is "the dumbest possible response." Over and over again. Music to my ears.

Sessions, remember, is the guy who sought to revitalize the estate tax repeal movement by scouring post-Katrina New Orleans for a corpse with an estate subject to the tax. The ghoulish endeavor netted precisely no examples. Here, he turns in a performance much like you'd expect. Beating up on him seems a bit cruel, but given that legislating is his job, somebody should tell him that it is not, in fact, "because of the peculiarities of the lawmaking process [that] the death tax will return in 2011 -- at the same high rates that existed before -- unless Congress enacts new legislation," but because George W. Bush and the Republican Congress consciously inserted a sunset provision so the long-range budget estimates wouldn't look so catastrophic. And you've got to love the choice of the word "peculiar": The same word used to make the indefensible institution of slavery seem cute and harmless, now used to make the estate tax's return seem odd and quixotic. But as I explained a couple days ago, there's really nothing peculiar about this at all.

--Ezra Klein

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