Media Amnesia On Alternative Minimum Tax
Ben Franklin once said, "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes."
That truth is even more painful for the increasing number of people who fall into a separate tax structure called the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Those qualified for the AMT face a flat tax rate of as much as 28 percent.
Lately, a number of politicians have been crying out for AMT reform to save the middle-class, but the media has a faulty memory when it comes to who is responsible for the AMT monster.
“House Democratic leaders, in an effort to upstage Republicans on the issue of tax cuts, are preparing legislation that would permanently shield all but the very richest taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax,” reported The New York Times on April 9. “Democrats Seek to Lead the Way in Tax Overhaul,” was the headline.
On Nov. 14, 2006 CBS "Evening News" praised Rep. Charles Rangel for making AMT reform a "top priority."
But like many other media mentions of the AMT, neither the Times nor the "Evening News" explained that Rangel and a host of other sitting members of Congress voted to increase the tax rates for the AMT in 1993 and neglected to index it to inflation -- causing more and more "middle-class" households to get caught in its jaws. Many of them also voted against a full AMT repeal in 1999.
Instead a number of stories blamed something altogether different: the Bush tax cuts.
"The reach of the alternative tax is expanding rapidly, for two main reasons. The first is that the tax is not indexed for inflation ... But an equally important reason stems from Mr. Bush's tax cuts of 2001 and 2003," said the Times in the April 9 article.
The Washington Post, CNN.com and "The Early Show" on CBS all joined the Times in blaming the tax cuts for tax increases.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, disputed this claim in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on March 7.
"The surge is not the result of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts but the AMT increases of 1990 and 1993 and the failure to index income exemptions to inflation," said Norquist.
ATR’s chief economist, Daniel Clifton, said politicians’ push to raise other taxes to pay for AMT Reform is a trap, and that they “are using the AMT as an excuse to raise more taxes so they can spend more money down the road.”