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Congress Sends $70 Billion Tax Package to President


President Bush is praising yesterday's Senate approval of a $70 billion tax cut bill. It extends the reduced 15 percent tax rate for capital gains and dividends. It also helps the millions of taxpayers facing the alternative minimum tax.


You've done some analysis on who will benefit from this tax bill, and what did you find?

LEN BERMAN: And the richest one in a thousand taxpayers would get an $84,000 tax cut.

YDSTIE: Now, Democrats are criticizing the bill as being skewed to the rich. Republicans argue that extending, for instance, the low 15 percent tax rates on investment income is justified, because those low rates have helped to boost economic growth. Do they have a point?

BERMAN: Not really. Actually, I wrote a book about taxation of capital gains, and I looked at all of the arguments for and against low tax rates very carefully. And my conclusion was that it was a mixed bag. Lower tax rates do encourage people to save more. The effect that has on overall investment is pretty modest. A large part of our savings now comes from foreigners and pension funds who aren't effected by tax rates in the U.S.

YDSTIE: The other big provision in this tax bill does a temporary fix to the alternative minimum tax. And the AMT was enacted in 1969 to ensure that the wealthy would be sure to pay some tax, at least. But it wasn't adjusted for inflation. So we've got middle class Americans paying the AMT now.

BERMAN: However, because the AMT isn't indexed, every year, more and more lower-income households become subject to it. You know, by the end of the decade, if the law doesn't change, there'll be 30 million households subject to the AMT; almost the same proportion as take the Mortgage Interest Deduction.

YDSTIE: Thanks very much for joining us.

BERMAN: My pleasure, John. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.