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Rep. Jim McDermott Headshot

Fixing AMT is the First Step in Restoring Fairness

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The R in "Republicans" must also stand for "Rich." That's the only plausible explanation I can find to explain why my Republican colleagues in the House prefer to sink the American middle-class to keep afloat unfair and bloated tax breaks for the rich, and I mean Rich with a capital R.

House Democrats, under the leadership of Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Charles Rangel, passed legislation that would avert a tax catastrophe for millions of middle-class families by stopping the alternative minimum tax (AMT) from applying to them this year, and Republicans promptly bolted for the exit.

Why? Because they wanted to borrow more money we don't have, but they have already spent multiple times since this president took office, and send it to America's richest one percent. Again.

I kid you not. Republican press releases may shout fiscal conservative, but their votes scream fiscal recklessness.

The AMT was enacted decades ago to make sure the super-wealthy paid something every year in taxes at a time when they were using tax shelters to shield their wealth while the average American could not. Over the years, the threshold for AMT has gotten closer to the middle class and now threatens to swallow 23 million everyday Americans if we don't fix it this year.

We asked for Republicans to join us in crafting a bi-partisan solution that would last one year while we developed a permanent remedy, but they preferred to offer legislation to shield the wealthy and shave the hide off the next generation by indebting future Americans to even more debt so that Republicans could give the super wealthy a super deal. That's just wrong.

While this president and his Republican majority spent six years giving away the keys to the treasury, the national debt soared to such a level that our national security is at risk because foreign countries finance so much of our debt that they have developed a new nuclear option that doesn't involve a mushroom cloud.

When the American people elected a Democratic majority last November, the first thing we did was restore fiscal sanity. The AMT legislation is an example of what we can do when we start with the premise that, in America, everyone should pay their fair share, even rich people who are blessed to live in a nation that affords them the opportunity to create their wealth.

The AMT legislation we passed in the House is fair and the benefits of the package are clear: AMT relief for 23 million Americans, state and local sales tax deductibility for 11 million Americans, including the people in my home state of Washington, a property tax deduction for 30 million Americans, a tuition deduction for 4.5 million Americans, a greater deduction for out-of-pocket expenses for 3.5 million Americans teachers, and an enhanced child tax credit for the families of 12 million American children.

Yes, we ask the super rich to contribute their fair share to the nation that provides them so much. For instance, the legislation would close a loophole in the tax code on something called carried interest that allows a small group of investment managers to pay the lower capital gains rate on their compensation instead of what most Americans pay. This is the right thing to do and it is a clear sign that America's core values are swinging back to the center from the far right where they have been stuck for six years.

The AMT legislation puts real money in the pockets of millions of hard-working American families, but Republicans so far have largely chosen to ignore the Middle Class. At the end of the day, the American people want real leadership and real responsibility. If anyone in our country, rich or otherwise, ran their house the way the Republicans ran this House for six years, they'd be broke.

The AMT legislation represents an historic opportunity to provide relief without burdening future generations with more debt. The Senate and the president should vote for the American people by passing and signing the AMT legislation into law.

Together, we can make R begin to express the only phrase that ought to apply in this debate: Right thing to do for the American people.