Luntz Watch: Dueling with the “Death” Tax

“The death tax deserves to die.” That little wordplay is courtesy of right wing propagandist Luntz who then proceeds to describe “the language of death tax repeal [as] easy for working and retired Americans to understand and appreciate.” Besides continuing to casually deride the American citizens, Luntz presents some “common sense principles” behind repealing the death tax. Except his explanations don’t make sense themselves:

The death tax is the wrong tax. It accounts for just one percent of the nation’s revenues, and dollar for dollar, it costs more to collect than any other federal tax.

It hurts the wrong people. If you saved for the future, put away money for your children, built a small business, ran a family farm, or achieved the American Dream in other ways, the death tax punishes you and prevents you from sharing your dream and hard work with your loved ones.

In actuality, repealing the estate tax would reduce revenues for federal government and state governments — a permanent repeal “would cost $162 billion through 2013” — while providing a “massive windfall for some of the country’s wealthiest families,” as the estate tax affects only about 2 percent of America’s estates. Furthermore, even if the tax is repealed, the estates stand to “still be taxed at the state level.”

It helps the wrong people. The only people helped by the estate tax are the army of fancy lawyers, expensive tax accountants and IRS agents.

And by saying the tax “hurts the wrong people” Luntz must mean President Bush’s close allies; most of the individuals from his original cabinet would benefit from the repeal. The tax hurts millionaires, not the average American, but Luntz continues to villify lawyers, accountants, and the IRS. Luntz seems set on putting them in the crosshairs; earlier in his report he shows little sympathy for this part of our citizenry: “[N]o one will weep for the IRS agents, tax attorneys and CPAs who would rather keep a complicated, confusing and corrupt tax system in place than go out and get another job.”


Luntz is stunned by “just how easy it is to convince people of the absurdity of the death tax if you stick to these principles.” Yes, Luntz may find it “truly remarkable” that campaigns of half-truths and flat out lies can convince people of anything — even weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — but it certainly is not principled.