Focus Point - Estate Tax History

Commentary by Pete du Pont
I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Press coverage of Congress's passing, and president Clinton's threatened veto, of the bill ending the death tax hasn't given the historical background. So I will.

The first death tax in 1797, helped pay for naval rearmament, and was terminated four years later because the need for the revenue ended.

A direct tax on inheritances was imposed in 1862 during the Civil War, but the tax was then abolished in 1870. An 1898 tax was imposed to pay for the Spanish American War -- then repealed in 1902.

The death tax was revived in 1916 but not repealed after World War I. The top rate was only 20 percent when Franklin Roosevelt raised it to 70 percent in 1935. Today the Estate Tax goes up to 60 percent. But there's no war to fight; it exists only to enable the government to seize your money which, of course, you have already paid taxes on. Government double-dipping is why Congress wants to kill it.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, China's long march to the market.