Review of Graetz & Shapiro, Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight Over Taxing Inherited Wealth
4 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2008
The federal estate tax has been on the books for nearly 90 years. Although it raises relatively little revenue and affects only the richest one or two percent of the population, the estate tax has traditionally been viewed by its supporters as an emblem of the American commitment to progressive taxation and equal opportunity. Yet in recent years the estate tax has become widely unpopular, and in 2001 Congress voted to repeal it, albeit only in 2010 and only for one year. Professors Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro have written an important new book about the campaign for estate tax repeal and its implications for the ongoing debate over federal tax reform. Graetz and Shapiro pose three central questions: (1) How did the estate tax become so unpopular? (2) Why was there no organized and effective resistance to the campaign for repeal? (3) How did the groups opposed to the estate tax manage to remain united, despite internal tensions, in holding out for complete repeal rather than settling for a pragmatic compromise? In exploring these questions, Graetz and Shapiro, drawing on their backgrounds in tax policy and political science, have undertaken a major research project, including interviews with many of the key players. The result is a fascinating glimpse into the workings of American politics in "the age of polls, sound bites, think tanks, highly organized membership organizations, and single-issue coalitions."
Keywords: estate tax, repeal, grass roots, polls, tax policy, political science
JEL Classification: K34
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