How a Democrat is feeding the 'insulting lie' used to attack Biden's plan to tax the rich: journalist

Biden farmers
President Joe Biden tours King Orchards with members of the King family, Saturday, July 3, 2021, in Central Lake, Michigan. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

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In order to fund his "human infrastructure" proposals, President Joe Biden has recommended increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans — including inheritance taxes. Republicans and corporate lobbyists are claiming that doing so would punish blue-collar businesses. But liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent, this week in his column, notes that this claim is also being promoted by a centrist Democrat: former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, now a lobbyist.

"Of all the insulting lies we've heard about Democratic proposals to tax the rich," Sargent writes, "perhaps the worst is the idea that they would devastate owners and operators of family farms…. As president, Donald Trump embellished this further, adding the idea that estate taxes threaten salt-of-the-earth family-owned trucking businesses. Now, a new version of this line is back — only this time, it's being pushed by a Democrat who's advocating against a key tax provision in President Biden's $3.5 trillion 'human infrastructure' plan."

Sargent continues, "A swarm of lobbyists is gearing up against Democratic efforts to tax corporations and the wealthy to fund major investments in our people and in preserving the future home of human civilization. One thing the lobbyists want to protect is a loophole allowing untold inherited wealth to escape taxation."

The New York Times recently reported that Democratic proponents of Biden's inheritance tax proposals are saying that rural swing voters would not be affected by them. But Heitkamp, according to Sargent, is "pushing the argument that taxation at death is bad politics."

Sargent argues that the lobbying against Biden's tax proposals isn't motivated by a desire to protect family farms and blue-collar businesses, but to shield the ultra-wealthy from the taxes they are dodging.

"As it is, wealth and investment income are not taxed as labor income is," Sargent explains. "So, those amassing large fortunes often already receive privileged tax treatment. But in addition, when estates are passed down to heirs, for tax purposes, assets are assigned the value they have at that point of transfer. If assets are then sold later, they're taxed based on their appreciation in value from that point, effectively allowing all the appreciation before then to permanently escape taxation. This is one way billionaires can get away with paying so little in income taxes relative to their wealth, whereas most Americans have income taxes taken from each paycheck."

Sargent adds, "Biden's plan would combat this. It would tax those assets based on their appreciation from the original point of acquisition, thus taxing all that unrealized value. That's what lobbyists want to prevent. One of them is Heidi Heitkamp, the former Democratic senator from North Dakota."

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