The recent elections have already generated plenty of (incorrect) media reports about the death of conservatism. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, for example, says “the Conservative Era is over.”
Well, maybe not.
The Washington Post reported Nov. 11 that “Democratic leaders this week vowed to make the alternative minimum tax a centerpiece of next year’s budget debate.” Dems have apparently discovered the AMT “threatens to unfairly increase tax bills for millions of middle-class families by the end of the decade.” Welcome to Washington, tax-cutting Democrats.
The AMT requires taxpayers to do their taxes twice, once with deductions and once without, and pay whichever tax bill is higher. That’s hardly fair. Rep. Charlie Rangel, the man who will chair the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee next year, says he wants to repeal the AMT, even though doing so would reduce federal revenue. “We’ll have to pay for it, and it’s a big monster to do,” he told Bloomberg before the election. “It’s a lousy policy to make a mistake and to keep the policy because it’s expensive.”
There’s just a bit of hypocrisy here. In a Feb. 16, 2004 cover story, Businessweek magazine noted that the AMT was anything but “a mistake,” as Rangel put it. Even as they passed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, lawmakers knew they’d get billions back via the AMT. “It was deliberate,” John Buckley, Democratic tax counsel to the Ways and Means Committee, told the magazine. “It was conscious.”
Businessweek adds that the AMT was originally “aimed at 155 people.” That’s what’s truly ridiculous. Just as lawmakers shouldn’t pass earmarks aimed at helping a particular small group, they shouldn’t pass tax bills aimed at punishing a particular small group, either. So, as a tax-cutting conservative, I’d be happy to see both the AMT and the pork-barrel projects go.
Alter disagrees, at least on spending. “There’s a reason [conservatives] abandoned budget balancing: it’s a loser politically,” the columnist writes. “There just aren’t many votes in it, and that’s why Republicans didn’t cut spending. People want the government to deliver for them.”
Well, let’s consider what group the Democrats aim to deliver for.