How Not to De-Fang the AMT

Friday, July 20, 2007

In recent years, the Alternative Minimum Tax has become the bane of an increasing number of tax payers due to the fact that its income threshold is set at a fixed number of dollars while our government has been busy making these dollars worth less every year through inflation.

At the above link, I stated that I was unsure whether I was more unhappy about the AMT remaining on the books unchanged or the Democrats trying to "fix" it.

I had forgotten about a third, even more unsavory scenario: conservatives completely throwing in the towel and dickering with the Democrats on how to use the AMT "constructively". The below passage follows a proposal to reduce (but not abolish) the AMT by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (which would further entrench it and the income tax as a feature of domestic policy, as if either measure needs it):

[C]ashing out categorical programs would minimize the market distortions that they create. The Section 8 housing-voucher program, for instance, encourages low-income households to cluster in those neighborhoods where landlords are willing to accept them. More broadly, getting rid of categorical programs would pass responsibility for life decisions from the government to low-income households themselves. Why, after all, should we tell the poor how to spend the assistance that we give them? Why not, instead, simply augment their incomes directly -- tying the assistance to a work requirement, but otherwise trusting them to know what's best for them? Let's take steps to ensure, as Clinton put it, that those who work are not poor. That we can do so in a way that helps provide middle-class tax relief makes the prospect all the more compelling.
Or we could at least let the Democrats hang themselves while arguing for a real alternative -- to altogether stop taking money from those who make the plenitude of capitalism (and opportunities for the poor) possible in the first place, and return "responsibility for life decisions from the government to [income-earning] households themselves. Why, after all, should we tell the ["rich"] how to spend" their own money?

Oh. But that would require keeping in mind the "forgotten man" of income redistribution, the producer, and challenging the morality of altruism, which is unfortunately shared by all on the left and far too many on the right.

Often, I have complained about the right touting government regulation of the economy as capitalism. This article is not quite guilty of this sin, but it is illustrative, I think, of the general slippage of the conservative movement away from even pretending to fight for capitalism to coopting the welfare state.

If this article is any indication, many conservatives have stopped worrying about the propriety of the welfare state and settled for being the side in favor of a more "efficient" welfare state.

-- CAV

No comments: