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Carl Hulse Hates GOP's Successful Demonization of the "Death Tax"

Congressional reporter Carl Hulse insisted that the "death tax" (always in quotes) "hits merely a sliver of wealthy American families" and was dismayed at how successful the conservative campaign against it has been.

Congressional reporter Carl Hulse's web-only column, "Fate of Estate Tax Imperil's Obama's Ambitions," painted concerns about confiscatory tax rates leveled on property after the property owner's death, a burden passed to the survivors,as just another annoyance for President Obama to deal with. Hulse lamented how the right winghadwonover public opinion onthe issue through hammering the phrase "death tax" instead of the more traditional phrase "estate tax." Hulse only quotes figures that support the belief that concern over the death tax is just a conservative con job.


The death tax is the issue that simply will not die.


Fifteen years after Republican strategists put Democrats on the defensive by sticking that pejorative label on the federal estate tax, Democrats are still struggling with how to handle the levy on assets left behind - the one that conservatives portray as the Internal Revenue Service reaching beyond the grave.


Studies show that the tax hits merely a sliver of wealthy American families. A proposal by President Obama would leave it at current levels, affecting only estates valued at more than $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples.


But now some Democrats have joined Republicans to call for setting the threshold even higher, in a rebellion that could have important consequences not just for the future of the death tax but also for Mr. Obama's efforts to pay for his ambitious policy agenda.


If that Republican-backed plan is approved, it could deprive Mr. Obama of about $100 billion for his initiatives on health care, energy and education when alternative sources of revenue are already dwindling. That prospect is plain outrageous to top Democrats, who see efforts to spare the wealthy as particularly ill-timed given the economic pain being experienced by many of lesser means.


But the Times has never had compunction about passing along "pejorative labels" stuck on issues by liberal Democrats. In a June 2008 story, "death tax" was seen as a partisan Republican term and secured in protective quotes. Yet in the same story, the liberally loaded term "windfall profits of oil companies" stood unencumbered by quotation marks, presented as fact even though the phrase is calculated to make oil company profits seem unjust.


In his web-column, Hulse used only figures that downplayed the potency of the death tax:


A new analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that only 100 farms and small businesses in the entire country would be subject to the estate tax under Mr. Obama's plan, a number that shrinks to 40 under the proposal Ms. Lincoln sponsored with Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. A subsequent analysis by the center raised the prospect that there may be no farms or small businesses in Arkansas vulnerable to the tax.


More quotation marks here, as Hulse made sure readers understood that opposition to the death tax (excuse me, "death tax") was a misleading Republican plot:


Since discovering in the 1994 elections that the "death tax" had real resonance as a political issue, Republicans have pounded on the subject and won a steady escalation in the tax threshold, though they have been unable to secure its repeal. They miss no opportunity to continue the drumbeat.


Hulse concluded with more unflattering description.


But they acknowledge that Republicans have already triumphed on the public relations front, turning the estate tax into a continuing hot-button issue for many people who could only hope that their heirs might someday have to pay it.


For the other side of the death tax, you can go here.


Hulse has a history of disliking tax cuts, as shown by this amazingly loaded take from March 2003 on a tax cut pushed byPresident Bush as the war in Iraq was beginning:


Though Democrats pleaded for a halt after the war began, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate chose not to stop their march toward tax cuts and record deficits, pausing only to pass resolutions in support of the troops and the president. In doing so, they were executing a plan agreed upon weeks ago to keep pressing their legislative program even if the bombs began to fall.