Every writeup involving the estate tax
that I've read so far has used at most two different figures for the rate at which this tax operates; the first writeup here
uses the figures of 37% for estates over $625,000 and 55% for estates over $3,000,000. However, having looked at the actual legislation
, it seems that there are actually several figures on a sliding scale, the lowest of which is 18%.
The table available at http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/26/2001.html, which is a transcript of Title 26, Subtitle B, Chapter 11, Subchapter A, Part I, Section 2001 (yeesh) of the U.S. Code Collection, shows the scale on which estates are taxed. As far as I understand it, the figures on the left are the amounts by which the estate exceeds the exempted amount, which Rook has pegged at $675,000 as of 2000 and, according to this (http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/26/2031.html), has increased by $200,000 since then.
Also, having been moved by dannye's grim account of the plight of the American farm owner, I looked up a recent statistical report on the average value of farmland in Kansas (found here: http://www.nass.usda.gov/ks/landval/landvl99.htm). Apparently, the average value for farmland is pegged at $580 per acre. Another interesting figure (found at http://www.nass.usda.gov/ok/bulletin99/page053.htm) puts the price of cattle at $65.30 per 100 pounds. So, I suppose if you owned a 1,250 acre farm (about 2 square miles) with some 150,000 pounds worth of cattle, you might be getting close... that is, assuming you owned all of this property outright, instead of relying on bank loans.
Anyway, so much for factual argument. What bothers me most about rants like dannye's is statements along the lines of "tax is theft, especially when the money goes to the poor."
Money is a largely imaginary number granted to you by anonymous strangers - which is not to say that it can be treated as such.
The reason it's hard to take seriously the proposition that it's a lack of "initiative or will" that characterizes people with low incomes is that, while some highly demanding jobs pay extremely little, the people who make the most money get paid, by and large, for having lots of money. Examples of the former case are easy to find - for example, the cutoff for the earned income tax credit (mentioned in Kill the poor) for people with one child is higher than the salaries of some teachers (check for yourself at http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96406,00.html and http://www.oldham.k12.ky.us/TeachSalary.htm respectively). Examples of the latter should be apparent even to the most hardened Objectivist - after all, when the good heroic entrepreneur goes to pull him/herself up by the bootstraps, armed with nothing but ideas and a will to power, he/she is going to need a hefty loan from the bank - on which the bank will collect, regardless of success or failure.
Another irritating assumption is that the rich do more for the government than vice versa. In fact, all too much of government policy has been geared towards accomodating the wealthy at the profound expense of others. A particularly scary example came when the United States government attempted to sue Brazil for distibuting generic AIDS medication to HIV-infected patients (http://europe.cnn.com/BUSINESS/programs/yourbusiness/stories2001/wto.drugs/). The doctors who developed these drugs aren't paid any more or less depending on how many people use them. The people who end up being rewarded by patent laws benefit solely on account of having had the money to put up in the first place - and it is these people whose rights the government protects, more often than not.
As of 1999, 40 percent of Americans held only 0.5 percent of their country's net worth (http://www.gristmagazine.com/citizen/citizen041999.stm). In light of numbers like these, you can see why Marx wanted to just cut the rich out of the loop entirely and start over. Of course, that hasn't worked very well in practice. However, if we're going to instead settle for incremental and for the most part ineffectual programs that at best give the appearance that some concept of fairness may at one point or another have briefly flitted through our leaders' minds, you would think that the privileged few would at least have the good grace not to bitch quite so much about it.