Under current federal law, a married couple can pass about $10.9 million to their children free of federal estate tax, so the parents of five can give or leave each child more than $2 million free of federal tax. Above that number the tax is 40%, so a couple with $100.9 million can pass $64.9 million to their children after tax, or about $13 million for each of the imagined five children.
On April 16, the House passed a Republican measure that would repeal the estate tax. House Speaker John Boehner explained the majority's reasons this way: "Family farmers, ranchers and small-business owners work tirelessly to create jobs in our communities, put food on our tables and, God willing, have something to pass on to their children and grandchildren. Taking away that opportunity with a massive death tax bill is simply wrong."
Democrats immediately assailed the move. The New York Times, in the story linked to above, described the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, as saying that (in the Times's words, not Mr. Earnest's): the White House press secretary, said "Republicans were applying a double standard since they usually demand that Mr. Obama offset any tax cuts he proposes, while theirs would simply add to the deficit." The implication is that the House Republicans simply want to kill the estate tax so that the ultra-rich can pass to their children all of their wealth, instead of only lots of their wealth.
It occurred to me that the Democrats are being insufficiently charitable. I think the real reason that the Republican party wants to eliminate the estate tax, and thus allow centimillionaires to pass $20 million to each of their (in my example) five children, instead of only $12 million each, is that the party recognizes that their ultra-rich patrons are, as a group, rotten parents -- that is, the House leadership is tacitly acknowledging that even though Mom and Dad have enjoyed the talent to earn or otherwise acquire $100 million, they and their cohort have been such failures as parents that their children aren't able to stretch out $12 million to last a lifetime, and risk starvation if they inherit less than $20 million each.
I think this is a grand move: the House leadership is protecting the megawealthy even as it insults their children. It's almost enough to make me think that Mr. Boehner is a closet Socialist.