The struggling economy has been rough on many Americans, but it's been exceptionally rough on rich people in Wyoming, according to the state's lone House representative.
Republican Cynthia Lumis claimed in a news conference that the possible return of the estate tax is causing some of her constituents to commit suicide -- but she didn't offer any names.
The Associated Press reports that Lumis said some of the elder estate owners in Wyoming are plotting to go off life support or seek life-ending medical treatments.
"If you have spent your whole life building a ranch, and you wanted to pass your estate on to your children, and you were 88-years-old and on dialysis, and the only thing that was keeping you alive was that dialysis, you might make that same decision," Lumis said.
The estate tax is a tax levied on a property handed down from a deceased individual to another. Republicans, widely opposed to tax increases of any sort, are fighting against it.
As voters cast their ballots for a crucial midterm election, Lumis's remarks reflect an ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans on taxes -- whether to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent, and whether to let the estate tax return.
The AP notes that the "estate tax, first enacted in 1916, temporarily disappeared for 2010 while political wrangling stalemated efforts to revise it. The tax's top rate in 2009 was 45 percent, but estates smaller than $3.5 million — or $7 million in the case of married couples — were exempt. That left less than 1 percent of all estates subject to the tax."
The article adds: "Without further action from Congress, the estate tax will return in 2011 and will affect more heirs, with a lower exemption — $1 million — and a higher top rate — 55 percent."
Lumis also argued in the conference for a full extension of the Bush tax cuts.
"We need to quit suffocating job-creators," she said. "We need to unleash the potential of states and people to create jobs, and to quit suffering from unfunded federal mandates to the tune of tens of millions of dollars."
The story was picked up Monday evening by the liberal blog ThinkProgress.