The story of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) really is the story of the downward spiral of American politics. It goes like everything else: Good policy from decades ago slowly loses its progressivity and when Congress is forced to "fix" the situation, corporate lobbyists and their paid off lawmakers in both parties use the occasion to preserve or expand huge goodies for the tiniest - and wealthiest - special interests. This is the subject of my latest nationally syndicated column out in papers today.
A month ago, House Democrats took the modest step of passing a bill preventing the AMT from hitting middle-class families, and paying for that bill by closing the tax loophole that lets private equity executives pay a lower effective tax rate than their servants. Unfortunately, that's when the private equity executives and their allies in Congress started taking hostages, first potentially delaying Americans' tax refunds, and now threatening to charge the $50 billion price of the AMT fix to the next generation by passing a bill that doesn't pay for the fix at all.
CNN this week notes that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) - the chairman of the Senate Democrats fundraising arm - is leading the charge against making private equity executives pay their fair share of taxes. He has used the Senate's tyranny of the tiny minority to block the original House bill.
Marketwatch reports that House Democrats have responded by - what else? - capitulating. They have paired back the AMT fix bill, taking out the provisions closing the income tax loophole. However, they have kept in a provision preventing private equity executives from being able to hide their income in offshore tax havens. But as CNN notes, Senate Democrats are likely to reject even that modest proposal, in favor of simply adding $50 billion to the national debt and ultimately forcing the next generation to pay higher taxes.
In general, Democrats seem to be working overtime to make this session of Congress known as the Capitulation Congress. As Salon's Glenn Greenwald shows, on everything from the Iraq War to consumer product safety to trade and now to taxes, Democrats seem determined to aid and abet the worst Republican and Big Money policies. And, as I say in my column, when it comes to taxes, the consequences of this behavior will be either pain for all of us either this April 15th or many April 15ths to come.
If you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site. On that front, I have some more good news - Alternet and the Grand Junction Sentinel are going to begin running my column soon. The word continues to get out.