Study: Despite Rhetoric, Lawmakers Backing Higher "Death Tax" also Backed Bigger Deficits

When the House of Representatives voted last week to create a permanent 45% federal estate tax instead of repealing it next year, supporters of the move said they were helping to reduce the deficit. But a study from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), the research affiliate of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), suggests they may have had another motive: lawmakers backing a big death tax also had much bigger-than-average federal spending agendas that would leave the government's balance sheet even deeper in red ink.

In an NTUF Issue Brief released this week, Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady found that Members who voted in favor a making the death tax a permanent fixture had an average net spending agenda of $630.2 billion. This figure is nearly 8 times the amount of the average net spending agenda for those Members of Congress who voted against the bill. On average, Members who voted against making the death tax permanent had net spending agendas of $81.6 billion.

Brady commented, "Taxpayers who watched the floor debate over the death tax last week might have been led to believe that raising revenues to help balance the budget was a big concern, but our research shows otherwise. The most vocal proponents of keeping the death tax alive sponsored or cosponsored bills that would add about 25 times more to the national debt than the tax could possibly add to the Treasury."

Similar results were seen when examining the Democrats' votes on the bill; no Republicans voted for the bill. Democrats who supported the tax backed legislation that would increase spending by $630.2 billion, nearly $35 billion more than those Democrats who voted against the measure.

The calculations are derived from NTUF's BillTally system, which tabulates the cost or savings of every piece of spending legislation introduced in both houses during every session of Congress. After gathering this data, the cost estimates are matched up with the bills each Member of Congress sponsors or authors. By tabulating the cost and/or savings of each Member's agenda, taxpayers can gain a better understanding of the policy and budget interests their elected representatives.

NTUF is the research and educational arm of the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels.