The estate tax is levied upon the "taxable estate" of a fantastically wealthy deceased person to any recipient (with certain allowances made for federally-recognized spouses and charitable organizations). The vast majority of people are unaffected by the estate tax. As of 2011, $5 million can be transferred from the taxable estate of a deceased individual without becoming eligible for the estate tax.
Cry Wolf Quotes
[The estate tax] represents a real tax on capital, and such a tax is necessarily unsound and unscientific because it tends to defeat itself as a revenue producer.
It is proposed to take capital and to use it in the ordinary operating expenses of Government…We are thus to live, not on income, but on principal, and to that extent we exhaust our resources and prevent the industrial expansion essential to our increasing population and our high standard of living.
They [higher estate tax and provisions for publicity of individual tax returns] are both not only stupid but malevolent expressions of the class feeling and socialist theorizing which are infecting American thought and even shaping our laws… It is astonishing that an American congress with, presumably, some sense at least of the significance of American experience and achievement and some sense of the cause and meaning of the Russian folly before it, should care or dare to experiment in confiscation.
Confiscation of private wealth does not make the public or even its agent, the government, rich. It does not create equality of wealth, but an equality of poverty.