Let's be honest: the tax plan Rick Perry unveiled the other day is a bushel of bamboozlement inside a cartload of crap. That may not surprise anyone, but I have to point out Perry's embrace of an old zombie lie that should have been shot in the head with a crossbow (have I been watching too much Walking Dead?) a long time ago. Says Perry's web site:
In the case of family business owners and farmers, the [estate] tax often exceeds the ability of the family to pay. These heirs are consequently forced to sell off part, if not all, of their enterprise in order to pay the tax. Eliminating the death tax is necessary to protect family businesses, farms and jobs.
No, no, no. I realize that it's a lot more appealing to say you want to eliminate the tax to help struggling family farmers than to say you want to eliminate it so Paris Hilton won't have to pay taxes, unlike people who work for a living. But the family farm myth has been debunked again and again. As a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted last year, "there is overwhelming evidence that the estate tax does not pose a significant problem for farmers. The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center estimates that fewer than 110 small-farm estates in the entire nation would likely face the tax in 2011 if Congress reinstated the tax at its 2009 levels, as President Obama has proposed. Moreover, estate tax opponents have not been able to produce a single case in which a family farm had to be sold to pay the tax, even before the 2001 tax law began phasing down the tax significantly."
Read that last part again: The proponents of estate tax repeal have not been able to produce a single case of a family farm that was lost because the heirs had to pay the estate tax. It's a myth. And you know what else? Over the years, as this debate has gone on, Democrats have at times proposed dramatically increasing the amount of a family farm or small business that would be exempt from estate taxes, which would solve the problem Republicans claim tears so viciously at their hearts. Republicans opposed those proposals every time. Could it be that their real agenda was making sure that plain old rich heirs don't have to pay taxes? Nah, that couldn't be it. It's all about the farmers. So someone should ask Rick Perry whether he knows of family farms that have been sold to pay estate taxes, and if he would provide the names of those people to reporters so they could check his claim. Since he says this happens "often," but people who have looked into it before say it happens, well, never, perhaps Perry could clear this up.