Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and a grandniece of Walt Disney have added some star power to a group asking Congress to make the estate tax “robust” and “permanent.”

Rubin and Abigail Disney appeared today at a teleconference organized by United for a Fair Economy, Boston.

Rubin says in a statement that a progressive estate can help improve federal finances without hurting the economy. An estate tax can also help prevent a harmful “accumulation of inherited economic and political power,” he says.

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 phased in a reduction in the estate tax from 2002 to 2009, then caused the estate tax to disappear this year. The tax is set to return in 2011 at 2001 levels, with a $1 million deduction and a 55% top rate.

UFE is backing S. 3533, a bill that would set the exemption at $3.5 million per spouse, impose estate tax rates ranging from 45% to 55% rate, and set the rate at 65% on amounts over $1 billion. S. 3533 was introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

UFE also is backing H.R. 2023, a bill introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., that would set the exemption at $2 million per spouse and impose rates of 45% to 55%.

-wh