Democrats object to uncharitable changes

One part of President Barack Obama’s plan to have the wealthy pay more taxes is under fire in Congress this week — from Democrats.

They have legitimate reason to oppose the president’s plan.

The best-known portion of Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy is to allow a tax cut that was enacted under President George W. Bush to expire in 2011. That will raise the top tax rate for individuals who make more than $200,000 a year from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

Obama made that change a part of his campaign pitch last year, and Democrats in Congress largely support the notion. And, since Congress does not have to take any action to allow the
Bush tax cut to expire — indeed, it would have to act to keep it in place beyond 2010 — that part of the plan is almost guaranteed to occur.

But Obama’s tax proposal also calls for limiting tax deductions that wealthy individuals and couples can claim for charitable donations, mortgage interest and state and local taxes. Many Democrats, along with most Republicans, object to those changes, especially those regarding charitable deductions.

“I would never want to adversely affect anything that is charitable and good,” said Rep. Charles Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel’s counterpart in the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, also expressed reservations about the proposal. So have other congressional Democrats.

The concerns of two of the top Democrats in Congress involved in writing tax policy may be causing the Obama administration to retreat on that part of its plan.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told members of Congress Wednesday that raising taxes on the wealthy is critical to the president’s plans for revamping the nation’s health care system.

But, he said, “We recognize there are other ways to do this.”

We’re not sure what other things Geithner has in mind. But punishing charities that depend on substantial contributions from some of our richest citizens to sustain their operations is not good public policy, especially during a serious economic crunch.

We applaud Democrats for challenging the president on this. Now if they would just oppose the hike in tax rates.


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