Evan Mintz — a member of the editorial board for the Houston Chronicle — thinks the guillotine would be a great replacement for the estate tax.

The 479-page tax bill hastily passed by Senate Republicans this weekend included a provision that would raise the threshold for estates qualifying for the federal estate tax, which currently only applies to an individual leaving behind more than $5.49 million, or a married couple leaving more than $10.98 million. The House version of the bill repeals the estate tax in its entirety by 2024.

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, 99.8 percent of estates that pass on assets to their children after they die are exempt from the tax.

Data by the Joint Committee on Taxation. Chart by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Nevertheless, President Trump and Republicans have made the repeal of the estate tax a cornerstone of their bill (calling it the “Death Tax”) and are unlikely to remove its repeal from the final legislation that comes out of a conference committee between House and Senate Republicans. So in his recent editorial, Evan Mintz came up with a great idea that Republicans should theoretically support, as it involves repealing and replacing the estate tax.

“We eliminate the estate tax, like one side wants, but instead replace it with a guillotine. Anyone passing along more than $5.5 million will have their heirs beheaded,” Mintz wrote. “Not only will the[sic] prevent the rise of an concentrated aristocracy – guillotines being their historic weakness – but it will also encourage rich families to pour their money into charities and the economy. Everybody wins.”

The tongue-in-cheek editorial included a mix of tax reform proposals, including a call to “simplify tax brackets” as Republicans are demanding, but with one tax bracket in which all income over $200,000 annually is taxed at 95 percent.

While it isn’t likely that the guillotine will be a serious alternative to the estate tax, the fact that an editor of a major city’s newspaper is using the words “guillotine” and “estate tax” in the same sentence is nothing short of remarkable.


Matthew P. Robbins is a freelance economics contributor covering wages, budgets, and taxes. He lives in Chicago, Illinois with his husband and two cats. 

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