Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Seattle Times ad lies about estate tax

Frank Blethen is at it again.

The Seattle Times owner is known for never wasting an opportunity to rail against the estate tax. Usually, it's yet another editorial on the Times' op-ed page.

But today, it comes in the form of an advertisement which appears only in the Times print edition (and which you see reproduced to your left).

This "advertisement" supposedly comes from The Family Business Estate Tax Coalition. And at the bottom of the ad, it reads:

Ad space donated by The Blethen Corporation, a locally owned family business.

It's nice to know that if your issue happens to strike a nerve with Frank, he'll give you free ad space. When you have a newspaper owner on your side who's willing to give you free ad space, who needs an advertising budget?

The Times is at their service.

It's quite a large advertisement, too - it's 19 and a half centimeters wide, and forty and a half centimeters in height. (The page itself is 30 centimeters wide and about fifty eight centimeters in height. The ad covers roughly 2/3 or more of the page.)

The advertisement is brimming with outright lies and mistruths.

As it's not that easy to read what the ad says from the image above, we're reproducing the text of the advertisement below:

Who does the estate tax help?
It may be surprising to learn the Estate Tax severely harms women - and minority owned businesses. With rates as high as 55 percent, these owners are often forced to sell their businesses to pay the tax and local communities throughout our nation suffer.

“It wasn’t all that long ago when a woman had to take her husband to the bank to apply for credit or open a checking account. Today, half of all businesses in this country are owned by women. These 15.6 million women owned firms employ over 19 million people nationwide and one in seven of all employed persons in the United States is employed by a woman—owned business. The Estate Tax strikes these thriving entrepreneurs as unfair. Unfair because, at present rates, the estate tax steals half of the value of what these women spent their lives building, and limits the ability for the business to continue employing people and growing into the next generation.”

- BARBARA KASOFF, Co founder and COO of Women Impacting Public Policy, a national bipartisan organization representing more than 500,000 women in business.

“Building wealth will lead to better education, better health care, safer streets and sustainable communities. Poverty and the lack of economic empowerment will get you frustration and hopelessness. The only way to fight poverty is good government and laws that do not penalize hard work, success, and savings. Let’s put to death the “death tax”!”

- From an editorial written by HARRY C. ALFORD JR., President and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce

“There is a direct correlation between locally owned businesses and community leadership. The owners of local businesses are most likely to be doing “the heavy lifting” in the community organizations that in turn contribute so much to making a great place to live. I know that the Estate Tax is a big factor in whether a locally owned business remains family-owned or sells to a larger, non-local owner. Ending the Estate Tax is an essential part of keeping engaged community leaders whose investments are local and whose futures are tied to the well-being of their community.

- GEORGE DUFF, Former president and CEO of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce

Who does the estate tax really help?
According to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, the Estate Tax raises very little, if any, net revenue for the federal government as a result of the high cost of enforcement and collection. So, who benefits? Big corporations and Wall Street investors who buy up family owned businesses when they are forced to sell. The tax lawyers and estate planners who profit from the activity surrounding the tax. And the life insurance companies who are working hard to protect their $12 billion in premiums if the Estate Tax is ended.

Senators Murray and Cantwell: You have the power to save Washington’s family-owned businesses and tens of thousands of jobs. We’re counting on you to say “no” to the Estate Tax.

The Estate Tax. End it for good.
The ad has so many lies in it, we hardly know where to begin.

The federal estate tax raised $23.4 billion last year. Repealing it would shift the burden off the fortunes left by the richest 1 percent of Americans, to the rest of the United States' citizens.

Either we'll have to assume the burden through higher taxes (unlikely under the Bush administration) reduced services, (somewhat likely under the Bush administration) or more borrowing (very likely under the Bush administration).

Did we mention that more borrowing means more debt? How's that for burdening future generations, Frank?

Repealing the estate tax is good for very wealthy Americans and nobody else.

The claims that the estate tax severly hampers women and minorities is completely bogus. Only very wealthy women and minorities would ever have to pay the estate tax.

William Gates, Sr. (father of Bill Gates) says:
“The question is, why are people wealthy? They worked hard, they’re smart, and they are American … (with) a police force that works, a court system that works, a market system that makes it possible to dispose of what you own. Economists tell us that having a stable market adds 30 percent to the value of everything you own.”
The estate tax is not new. We've been paying it for decades, and it hasn't crippled or destroyed our communities.

As to the people and the organizations in the advertisement:

Women Impacting Public Policy claims to represent half a million women in business. Not only does it favor repealing the estate tax permanently, but it's solidly behind Bush's plans to privatize Social Security. The Center for American Progress has this:
CHERRY PICKED CONVERSATION PARTICIPANTS: A recently discovered memo for an upcoming Social Security event in New York shows just how far the White House will go to get the "right" mix of people in the audience. Circulated by the group Women Impacting Public Policy, the memo didn't just announce the president's visit but "went on to solicit several types of people 'who he would like to visit with' – including a young worker who 'knows that [Social Security] could run out before they retire,' a young couple with children who like 'the idea of leaving something behind to the family' and a single parent who believes Bush's proposal for individual investment accounts 'would provide more retirement options and security' than the current system." Wait a second; it seems that the people solicited each represent "various arguments that Bush has been making for why Social Security should be overhauled." The memo ended by asking for "an immediate response" since they "[needed] to get names to the White House."
Sounds like a conservative organization. They can claim to be "bipartisan" but, they're obviously not progressive and they're clearly not moderates, either.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce has a similar story. They also support Bush's privatization plans and appear to have positions on issues similar to the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And they supported the disastrous 2003 Medicare bill championed by the White House, Frist, and Delay. Yet another conservative organization and Bush ally.

The Family Business Estate Tax Coalition itself appears to have been spawned by the National Federation of Independent Business, an archconservative organization that backs the administration.

These are not mainstream voices. They're leaders of conservative interest groups who support the Bush agenda. And their "testimonials" are slicked up to look like these people are moderate voices crying about against an unfair and unjust policy. The advertisement is a lie and its claims are outrageous.

The bottom line is that repealing the estate tax only helps the wealthy. Frank Blethen is using his position as a media titan to help spread these mistruths around. As David Goldstein noted:
Three generations of Blethens have managed to keep their inheritance in the family despite a much higher estate tax than the Times now rails against. If the current generation proves unwilling to make the same kind of sacrifices as their elders, then the Blethen family should blame itself, not the tax code.
We concur, and we urge you to spread the word that this advertisement is nothing but another attempt to spread myths about the estate tax.

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