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Dedicating estate tax to Social Security is sound policy

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has proposed using the federal estate tax to help fund Social Security.
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has proposed using the federal estate tax to help fund Social Security.

The late Robert M. Ball, still the longest serving commissioner of Social Security and the world’s leading expert and champion of the program at the time of his death in 2008, would take strong exception to Brenton Smith’s op-ed, “Why Van Hollen’s Social Security’s ‘fix’ won’t work" (Aug. 16). I am confident that Ball would strenuously disagree with the op-ed because he was the first to propose what Senator Van Hollen advocates.

Dedicating the federal estate tax to Social Security, as Ball and Mr. Van Hollen have both proposed, is not only sound Social Security policy, it also reinforces the ideals of our nation to reward merit, not the fortuity of birth and station. In fact, founding father Thomas Paine proposed an estate tax for old age pensions in “Agrarian Justice,” published in 1791.

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The proposal is structured so that Social Security will continue to not add a penny to the deficit. Republicans have sought to eliminate the estate tax and have scaled it so far back that it affects almost no one. The Van Hollen proposal restores it to where it was in 2009, which will still make it our nation’s most progressive tax, requiring no payment from married couples with estates of $7 million or less.

Social Security is a solution not only to the nation’s looming retirement income crisis, but also to growing income and wealth inequality. It will be even more of a solution with Senator Van Hollen’s proposal.

Nancy J. Altman

The writer is president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition.

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