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Grassley Goes After Proposed Medicare Payroll Tax Increase « The Washington Independent

It was inevitable that conservatives would attack the Senate health care reform legislation over the proposed o.5 percent hike in Medicare’s payroll tax for the country’s highest earners. Now they’re drilling down into the specifics.

Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has asked the Joint Committee on Taxation to analyze the future effects of the Democrats’ tax increase. Specifically, Grassley is wondering why the proposed hike isn’t indexed to inflation, leaving more and more Americans to fall subject to the increase each year.

“The unintended consequences could be significant,” Grassley warned.

If that scenario sounds familiar, it’s because the Alternative Minimum Tax — designed decades ago to target just a tiny sliver of high-income households — was similarly not indexed to inflation. As incomes have risen over the years, more and more upper-middle-class families have fallen into the bracket under which they have to pay the AMT. Some liberals don’t see a problem with that. But Congress, fearing a backlash at the polls, has stepped in each year with the so-called AMT patch, providing billions of (borrowed) dollars to prevent the tax from hitting those families.

The Democrats’ motivations are easy to surmise: Had they indexed the tax to inflation they would have generated much less revenue to pay for their health-care reform bill. And the proposed payroll tax increase is much less than the AMT. Still, it’s not too far a stretch to imagine that the lawmakers of the 2030s, also wanting to appease the voters, would also find it tempting to come up with the Medicare-payroll patch.

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