William H. Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins write that legislation to accelerate the repeal of the federal death tax is "unseemly" and dust off the oft-refuted canard that death-tax repeal helps only "the rich" ["A Fair Payment for War," op-ed, March 25]. To the contrary, death-tax repeal helps everybody. It helps people who own a business, family farm or ranch. But less obviously, it helps the workers employed by a family-owned business. Jobs are lost when businesses must be liquidated to pay the tax. And it touches all American consumers who want their local garden store or pet shop or family grocery to stay in business.

Death-tax repeal actually helps the wealthy least of all. People like Gates can afford accountants and estate planners to help them evade the federal death tax. They have amassed such fortunes that they can afford to pay a heavy death tax and still keep their businesses afloat.

Small-business owners of more modest means, by contrast, are seriously crippled by the costs of complying with the federal death tax. Minority-owned businesses spend, on average, $9,000 on estate tax planning and $28,000 a year on life insurance premiums. The overall total for the average family business is $125,000 over five years.

This is money going to accountants and tax lawyers that would be better spent expanding a business, hiring more employees or providing better health care coverage. By eliminating the need for staggering attorneys' fees and other costs, death-tax repeal would provide an immediate boost to the U.S. economy, because that money would be invested in our country, rather than landing in lawyers' wallets. A healthy, growing economy is the key to ensuring that our government has the money it needs to spend on essential programs and that there are jobs for the workers of this country.

-- Jon Kyl

The writer is a Republican

senator from Arizona.