The July 24 editorial "Estate Tax Myths" actually offered a good rationale for abolishing the estate tax, not for keeping it. Even if only a few farm families are forced to sell assets to pay the tax, that is a coercive use of government power. The role of government is to protect private property, not to use tax power to seize assets just because the value of an estate exceeds some arbitrary exemption level.
The Congressional Budget Office study cited apparently considered only those farm estates that were subjected to the tax and had to file estate tax returns. But many people (and not just farmers) are influenced by the threat of the tax and manipulate their affairs to avoid or minimize its impact.
Estates are the tangible manifestations of being able to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." People should not have their assets subject to confiscation by the government upon their death, or have to play games with the government to avoid taxes.
A 2001 report from the Joint Economic Committee said, "The estate tax is a leading cause of dissolution for thousands of family-run businesses." But further reading of the report shows that this claim is based not on fact but on a survey of family farmers, 37 percent of whom said they believed that if the principal owner of their family business died tomorrow, the heirs would be forced to sell off or liquidate part of the business. The evidence shows that's not true.
Fewer people paid the estate tax in 2003 (about 30,000) than attended the Washington Nationals baseball game July 21 (about 39,000). Yet the projected loss of revenue is massive: $1 trillion over the next 10 years. The "compromise" isn't much better -- we'd still lose close to $900 billion. These are tax breaks we cannot afford.
At some point, common sense has to trump the political rhetoric of wealthy interests.