When I got the story from Matt Brady and Dave Postal for the November 19th issue about the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the estate tax held earlier this month, I let out a loud and sustained cheer on reading Warren Buffett’s comments.
Our office environment is not exactly what you would call buttoned up, but even so the Texas-size quality of my cheering brought some members of my staff running into my office, questioning what the heck was going on.
“What happened,” one of them inquired. “Have the president and vice president resigned?”
I had to laugh at that. “No,” I chuckled. “You know I’d still be cheering.”
So, I went on to tell them how exhilarated I was upon reading how the Sage of Omaha, as the legendary investor and multi-billionaire is fondly known in some circles, used his testimony to rip at the hypocrisy of the term “death tax” and how it has been used by proponents of repeal of the estate tax.
The term “death tax,” he said, showed the “intellectual dishonesty” of those who use it. Then he said, “It’s clever, it’s Orwellian, and it is, if you pardon the expression, dead wrong.”
Here’s some more of what Buffett said (quoting from story): Only a very small number of Americans, he added, pay the tax, roughly the equivalent of one half of one percent of the population. “You would have to be at 200 funerals to attend one where the decedent paid the tax.”
Furthermore, Buffett argued that those calling for an end to the estate tax rarely speak of where the government would find other sources of income to make up for what he said was roughly $24 billion annually. “They just say ‘free us,’” he said. “They don’t say who to further shackle.”