Trump lies: His “family farmer” who “fears the inheritance tax” is Monsanto’s biggest seed-corn grower
Political consultant and pollster Frank Luntz didn’t invent all the most viral Republican soundbites, such as “tax and spend Democrats,” but he knows how to snow an audience with political marketing via deceptive wordsmithing. The audience, of course, being the American people.
For instance, Luntz says it should be “opportunity scholarships” instead of “vouchers,” “electronic intercepts” instead of “wiretapping” or “eavesdropping,” “government takeover of health care” rather than “universal coverage,” “deep-sea exploration” instead of “offshore drilling for oil.” He infamously said that Republicans should avoid “global warming” and use what he considered softer language: “climate change.”
Luntz also was instrumental in the broad dissemination of one of the most effective GOP substitutions, replacing “estate tax” or “inheritance tax” with “death tax.” But he didn’t invent it. Jim Martin of the 60-Plus Association, which he has described as a conservative AARP, credits himself for that coinage. By 2001, thanks to Luntz, Republicans had made the “death tax” so widespread that many in the media treated it as a neutral term, as some still do.
Democrats have so far failed to come up with an edgy counter-soundbite of their own that illustrates just how deceptive the “death tax” theme is. Given what Donald Trump laid out in the Republican tax plan Wednesday, they need to do so. New York University School of Law professor Lily L. Batchelder has come up with just the thing—the “silver spoon tax.” Not only does it have the proper ring, it’s also perfectly accurate since only 0.2 percent of estates are subject to the tax.
Trump employed “death tax” four times in his speech:
So that death tax is a disaster for this country and a disaster for so many small businesses and farmers. And we’re getting rid of it. […]
“With us today is Kip Tom, a family farmer from Leesburg — Where’s Kip? Go ahead, Kip. Hi, Kip — who fears that his family’s farming heritage — it’s been a long time. How long, Kip? A hundred and eighty-seven years — that’s peanuts, Kip. Wow. That’s a long time. But that great heritage could come to an end because of the death tax, or the estate tax, and could make it impossible for him to pass that legacy to his wonderful family. We’re not going to let that happen.”
For many Americans, “family farmer” in this context no doubt conjures up images of a struggling salt-of-the-earth fellow plowing fields in patched coveralls behind a pair of mules and barely hanging on to the ancestral legacy that “government grabbers” are determined to destroy when the farmer dies by taxing the farm out of existence and leaving offspring penniless. The truth is nowhere near that.
The estate tax for the 2017 tax year only comes into play after income from inheritance exceeds $5.49 million per person or $10.98 million per married couple. So 80 percent of even the 1 percenters don’t have to pay it. Be assured that nobody who still plows with mules other than as a hobby will pay a nickel. Moreover, even those who do have to pay won’t be ruined.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that killing the estate tax would deliver a windfall “averaging more than $3 million apiece … and more than $20 million for the wealthiest estates.”
Kip Tom’s Monsanto connection
As for Kip Tom: That 187-year-old farm was a lot smaller when he inherited it from his parents. Two hundred acres. It’s a far cry from that now.
Today Tom, is on the Trump advisory committee on agriculture, was apparently considered briefly for secretary of the Agriculture Department, and is CEO of Tom Farms LLC.
That operation, according to Politico, makes his farm the largest in Indiana, and one of the largest in the nation, with 20,000 acres spread over seven counties. Tom also operates farms in Latin America.
In 2013, he told an interviewer for Indianapolis Monthly that his Indiana operation pays out some $10 million a year just on new equipment:
Tom Farms is also one of the top seed-corn producers for global agri-giant Monsanto. Raising the genetically modified crop requires tightly controlled in-field pollination, plus logistical know-how that only operations like Tom’s can provide. Making sure each plant is properly detasseled takes two passes by specialized machines, plus a final “rogueing” step, whereby 700 orange-hat–wearing migrant workers from Latin America and Cambodia walk every row of about 5,000 acres and remove any remaining tassels by hand.
In other words, not anywhere close to a shoestring operation.
If he died this year, his extensive holdings in Indiana would be one of about 50 to 80 family owned farms and small businesses in the whole nation that would owe any estate tax. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the inheritors of such operations average a tax bill of just 6 percent of the farm or business’s value.
Over the next couple of months, as this tax plan—hopefully—gets pounded into the ground, we’re going to hear “death tax” a lot from elected Republicans, lobbyists, and pundits. Plus a lot of deceptive bullshit about gobs of desperate heirs of family farms and small businesses facing ruin from the tax bill.
Every time that happens, we should remind them that this is the “silver spoon tax,” one that affects a teensy portion of the population and doesn’t put any of those few people onto the street.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)