160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Congress must defuse middle-class tax bomb THE U.S. House of Representatives should follow the Senate’s lead and reform the alternative minimum tax before it catapults 23million middle-class Americans into a penalty bracket originally crafted to snag a handful of tax-dodging millionaires. After 11 months of pointless bickering, the Senate last Thursday approved, 88-5, a one-year, stopgap measure that temporarily indexes the minimum tax for inflation. The House needs to follow suit this week or early filers will face long delays getting their tax refunds – which averaged $2,291 last year, according to the Internal Revenue Service. President Bush last week called on the House to send the Senate bill to him before leaving for a holiday break. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champThe AMT was created in 1969 to prevent just 155 wealthy people from “zeroing out” their tax liability through excessive credits and deductions. But failure to adjust it for four decades of inflation now means it would hammer millions of ordinary Americans if imposed in its current form. That’s not really likely to happen, since the resulting public outrage would force a lot of congressmen to trade their cushy jobs and benefits for whatever employment is available at the local carwash. Neither party wants that outcome. But while House Democrats did pass a bill to fix the AMT, they also insisted on paying for what they are characterizing as a “tax cut” by passing offsetting tax increases in other parts of the budget. Republicans, correctly in our view, blocked that approach in the Senate and forced approval of a straight AMT relief bill. Given the huge federal deficit, we believe that new tax cuts and/or new spending should be offset by tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere. But AMT relief isn’t a “tax cut” – it merely avoids a huge, and grossly unfair, tax increase. Congress must stop playing games. Pass AMT relief now or face the wrath of every middle-class taxpayer.