Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hoyer: AMT might not get fixed this year

Okay, this may just be a trial balloon or an attempt to put pressure on the White House. But if you want to read something that could provoke a mob march on Washington and burn it down, consider the words of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) hinted Tuesday that Congress may not be able to stop a big tax increase from hitting 23 million Americans.

Hoyer, pressed on whether Congress would resolve disputes over the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), said, “Maybe.”

Now the question isn't as simple as it seems. President Bush has demanded that the AMT be fixed -- but has vowed to veto any measure that raises other taxes to make up for the lost revenue. Easy for him to say, because he doesn't have to craft the legislation to deal with the problem.

Democrats don't have the votes to overcome a veto, and apparently don't have the stomach to stand firm on this issue. Thus the current compromise, such as it is, is a Senate plan to simply add the missing millions to the federal deficit. That's what passes for fiscal discipline in Washington, and it ignores Congress's own "pay-as-you-go" rules in the bargain.

Indeed, Minority Leader John Boehner gets today's award for partisan disingenuousness:

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) pounced on the news, calling Hoyer’s remarks “another reminder that the Democrat majority’s priorities do not reflect those of the American people.”

“Democrats created the AMT, repeatedly voted against Republican efforts to abolish it entirely, and have failed to stop it’s impending assault on 23 million middle-class American taxpayers,” he said.

Right, because the American people want to keep running up the deficit.... Never mind Boehner ignoring the Republican role in blocking a deficit-neutral fix.

There's plenty of blame to go around here, starting with Bush's Catch-22 and Democratic cowardice. But there are two things that absolutely have to happen for Congress to have any credibility:

1. The AMT must be fixed, at least for this year;

2. PAYGO rules must be followed.

Whether #2 happens with tax increases or spending cuts, I don't much care. But Republicans should be ashamed of their "add it to the credit card" alternative, and Democrats should be ashamed that they don't have the guts to stand up to Republicans on this. Deficit-fighting rules like PAYGO don't have much teeth if they can be tossed overboard on something like this.

Hoyer's comments offer some hope that the House won't take the easy way out, setting up an interesting three-way confrontation between the House, Senate and White House. May the interests of the nation win.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Greenspan's comment: I thought everyone has understood for decades that our concern and national interest about the Middle East has a lot to do with oil. Maybe EVERYTHING to do with oil. This is no secret. But it's not just what a bad disruption of oil supplies from that part of the world would do to us....it's what it would do to the rest of the world. In fact, we'd fare better than many others. Like Japan who imports virtually 100% of their oil from there. We produce about 65% of our own oil (last number I remember) and we stock large emergency supplies in our Strategic Oil Reserves. A disruption in the world's energy supply, however, could lead to a world-wide depression. That's why the ME is so important.


12/23/2007 7:34 PM  

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