President Trump put out a tax plan that the administration described as a set of principles and guidelines, rather than as a complete policy proposal. But on one point, the administration was perfectly clear: The estate tax needs to be repealed.
That move would be highly lucrative for the upper crust of America's upper crust, including Trump himself and most members of the president's Cabinet.
The estate tax is paid out of the estates of well-off Americans when they pass away. All but the largest estates -- those with a gross value of over $5.49 million in 2017 -- are exempt, and on average, fewer than 1 out of every 500 Americans who die in a given year leave estates that are subject to the tax.
By contrast, according to estimates by The Washington Post, 13 out of the 24 officials in Trump's Cabinet own estates that are large enough to pay the estate tax.
Collectively, they could owe as much as $1.5 billion, The Post found.
Repealing the estate tax would leave the federal government short some $27 billion in revenue annually, making less money available for the military, scientific research, aid to the poor and other services funded by the government. At the same time, repeal would add to the advantages that the children of the very rich enjoy from birth over other Americans. For the families of some of Trump's closest advisers, repealing the tax would provide enormous material benefits.
Estimating the total tax bill requires first assessing how much each Cabinet member is worth. Bloomberg News has compiled data on most of them, from the not-quite-millionaires (Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, $865,000) to the fabulously rich (Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, $2.9 billion).
Bloomberg did not have data on a few members of the Cabinet, so we supplemented their numbers with estimates based on official financial disclosures. These disclosures only offer ranges, not precise figures, so we took the midpoint of those ranges as a rough indicator of the net worth for each of the other Cabinet members. Residential mortgages were excluded from these estimates, since federal officials are not required to disclose the value of their homes.