On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives took votes on amendments to an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to improve veterans' education benefits and to extend unemployment insurance benefits to get jobless Americans through difficult times.
One amendment that was approved would improve the educational benefits available to veterans by increasing them to match the highest public university tuition in a given recipient's state and providing a monthly housing stipend.
This improvement in veterans' education benefits would cost about $52 billion over ten years. To offset this cost, the legislation includes a small surtax on those who have most enjoyed the benefits of living in and doing business in America. The surtax of 0.47 percent (just under half a percent) would apply to adjusted gross income (AGI) over a million dollars for married couples and over half a million dollars for other taxpayers.
New figures from Citizens for Tax Justice show that in 2007 only 0.3 percent of taxpayers were rich enough to be affected by such a tax. Moreover, the sacrifice asked of them is tiny, equal to about 7 percent of their Bush tax cuts.
The surtax could be torpedoed several ways by lawmakers who want to preserve the Bush tax cuts for the rich. The vote on the actual war funding at the center of the emergency supplemental actually failed on Thursday, which could complicate matters when it comes time to negotiate with the Senate. Some Senators have expressed misgivings about whether their chamber would ever approve a surtax, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a version of the supplemental Thursday that has the war funding and the provisions to improve veterans' education benefits, but no surtax or any other revenue-raising provisions to offset the costs. The Bush administration predictably issued a veto threat against the surtax, as well as other provisions promoted by Democratic leaders.
"The surtax would scale back the Bush tax cuts for the richest 0.3 percent of taxpayers, by an average of just 7 percent, to help the men and women returning from the wars and their families," said Robert S. McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice. "Lawmakers who oppose this proposal will prove that they really do value tax cuts for the wealthy over all else."