The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Susan Roth, 301-530-3539,
Anne Singer, 202-271-4679,

Robert Rubin and Other National Figures Join United for a Fair Economy in Calling on Congress to Move Quickly to Restore a Permanent, Robust Estate Tax

Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Hedge Fund Pioneer Julian Robertson, Philanthropist Abigail Disney and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Argue for Progressive Tax in National Teleconference


With 12 legislative days remaining before the August recess, United
for a Fair Economy (UFE) is calling on Congress to prioritize
reinstating the estate tax, currently the most progressive tax in the
code and the only national tax on wealth. On Wednesday, July 21, four
powerful and expert voices joined UFE and its Responsible Wealth network
(RW) in a teleconference urging Congress to immediately restore a
robust and permanent estate tax.

Among participants on the call was Robert Rubin, the former
Secretary of the Treasury who is widely credited with overseeing the
Clinton era economic boom. "Our country is on an unsustainable fiscal
path. A progressive estate tax can provide needed revenue with no
adverse supply-side economic effect, and that revenue can then fund
deficit reduction, additional public investment, or added assistance to
those affected by the economic crisis," stated Rubin. Moreover, he
added, "our nation has always held itself out as a meritocracy and a
land of opportunity, and an estate tax helps avoid accumulation of
inherited economic and political power that is antithetical to this
historical vision of our society."
In her prepared remarks, Abigail Disney, the grandniece of the
legendary Walt Disney, explained that her family amassed its fortune
"not in spite of, but because of the American system of taxation."
Disney continued, "After all, without reliable and safe roads there'd
have been no Disneyland; without high functioning legal systems and a
well regulated business environment there would have been no copyright
protection for Mickey Mouse."
Mike Lapham, director of UFE's Responsible Wealth Project, which
brings together high net worth individuals who advocate for an end to
tax breaks for wealthy Americans like themselves, stated, "Members of
Responsible Wealth recognize that our good fortune comes from some
combination of skill, luck, and public investments, and we have a unique
ability and responsibility to give something back."
Lee Farris, UFE's Estate Tax Policy Coordinator, added,
"Hardworking families who live paycheck to paycheck pay their fair share
of taxes, and so should the heirs of millionaires. If Congress chooses
to shrink the estate tax, the middle class will face higher taxes or
cuts in vital services like unemployment benefits or education. We don't
need to weaken the estate tax - we need to strengthen it."
Julian Robertson, a hedge fund pioneer who made his fortune on Wall
Street beginning in the 1980's, was also on the call and said: "America
desperately needs to bring its budget more in line. Any move in that
direction is favorable. It seems to me that the least deserving
recipients of wealth are inheritors. Further, there are many
indications that inheritors often have trouble adjusting to their
unearned inheritance. An inheritance tax would de facto help remedy
"Our economy remains on the edge of a double-dip recession, and we
urgently need to create millions of jobs and invest in our future, not
give more tax breaks to the wealthy," said Richard Trumka, President of
the AFL-CIO. "Anyone who pretends to care about cutting deficits while
opposing the restoration of the estate tax is clearly residing on a
different planet."
UFE is calling on Congress to move quickly on the estate tax as
part of a larger tax package addressing the Bush tax cuts. All the
participants in today's UFE teleconference believe that a proposal,
recently reintroduced by Senators Jon Kyl and Blanche Lincoln, to
further weaken the estate tax is the wrong way to go, and agree the
estate tax should be re-established at its 2009 level or stronger.
While participants on the call have varying views of what form a
reinstated estate tax should take, UFE supports such progressive
proposals as: the bill offered by Senators Sanders, Harkin, and
Whitehouse (S.3533) with a $3.5 million exemption per spouse, 45-55%
rate, and a 65% rate on amounts over $1 billion; and a House bill from
Rep. Jim McDermott (HR 2023) with a $2 million exemption per spouse and a
45-55% rate.
The federal estate tax, established in 1916, has been temporarily
suspended for one year at the beginning of 2010 as a result of Bush era
tax policies and Congress's failure to act in 2009. If Congress fails to
pass new legislation, the estate tax reverts in 2011 to a $1 million
exemption per spouse and rates from 41-55%.
To date, UFE and Responsible Wealth have gathered over 5,000
signers on their Call to Preserve the Estate Tax, including over 2,000
individuals whose families have paid or who expect to pay the estate tax
themselves. UFE will continue this effort in the weeks and months ahead
and invites voters across the country to visit
to sign the call for a strong estate tax and get the latest information
on UFE's efforts.

United for a Fair Economy challenges the concentration of wealth and power that corrupts democracy, deepens the racial divide and tears communities apart. We use popular economics education, trainings, and creative communications to support social movements working for a resilient, sustainable and equitable economy. United for a Fair Economy believes another world is possible. We envision a global society which respects the humanity, rights, and creativity of all people.