Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blumenauer Debuts at Daily Kos

There have been a growing number of US politicians and potential politicians establishing accounts with political megasite Daily Kos lately. John Conyers and Louise Slaughter were among the first and most prolific authors, but they've been joined occassionally by Democratic heavyweights like John Kerry and Harry Reid. (My favorite diarist family has to be the Carters, however: granddaughter Sarah, NV Senate candidate Jack and former President James Earl.)

I haven't mentioned any Oregon representatives, have I? Searches for Wyden, Wu, Hooley and DeFazio in the user database turned up nothing. But starting yesterday our man in Stumptown, Earl Blumenauer, has gotten the Kos bug. His debut post was to applaud the long awaited Flood Insurance Reform Act's passage, a bill for which Earl was a sponsor.

Today's diary is a little more universally relevant and in the news lately: the estate tax. As you might expect, Blumie is for keeping it--but he also has some solutions for reform that he claims hold wide bipartisan appeal:
Throughout my 10 years in Congress, I supported reforming the tax- to raise the award exemption entirely, adjust the rates to be more gently graduated like it used to be, and provide deferral for owners of closely held businesses that wanted to continue in operation. We've all heard about having to "sell the farm" in order to pay the inheritance tax after Dad died. While it seems that there have been no cases identified where somebody actually had to do that, there's no doubt that the death of a principal owner of a closely held business may occasion the forced sale of the business to satisfy the inheritance tax liability for people who didn't plan carefully.

I have long felt that if the remaining owners of a closely held business wanted to continue the operation then the inheritance tax should be deferred until they wanted to cash in their equity. This approach--adjusting for inflation, modifying the rate, and deferring until people want to sell--has, without exception, met the concerns of people who have contacted me.

I've met with associations representing closely held businesses, distributors, dealerships, and contractors for whom this is an increasingly preferred option, especially after they witnessed the travesty of the approach of the Republican leadership.

Tom DeLay and his cronies were not interested in solving a problem; they were interested in having a political issue that they could milk shamelessly for campaign contributions. The reforms and compromise outlined above, which would be supported by an overwhelming number of Republicans and Democrats alike, wouldn't break the bank now or in the future as deficits explode with the retirement of baby boomers and the certain increase in debt payments as interest rates dramatically increase in the years ahead.
This is what common ground refers to. It's not Joe Lieberman's version of it, which is simply lickspittle platitudes and ideological giveaways under the guise of "compromise." As his primary opponent Ned Lamont stresses, the emphasis should be on the common GOOD.

Blumenauer's approach hones in on the reality of repeal's appeal: everybody thinks they might someday be lucky enough to have to pay the tax. While it's true that even under Blumenauer's terms we're still talking about tiny percentages of American taxpayers, his proposals go right to the heart of the matter: making sure so-called "ordinary people" aren't punished for their unexpected windfall. This principle also applies to the alternative minimum tax--it's supposed to hit wealthy people, but each year snags more families a little further down the food chain (although again we're still talking about the comfortably well-off). There's not money enough to address both taxes, but clearly the upper middle class is in more danger from AMT than the estate tax--yet DeLay and Co. continue to work on behalf of Paris Hilton and the Walton family (Sam, not John-boy).

It's great to see an Oregon politician take the plunge at Kos and begin speaking directly to the netroots. Let's hope more follow Earl's lead, seeking to establish and hone their positions, and (hopefully) listening to the feedback they generate.