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The Chairman Speaks Exclusive with Cong. Rangel, Part 1

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.

AN: And there are the other vital necessities we all need...

Rangel: Even grocery stores in affluent communities, where people are buying gourmet food and brand-name foods, but when they get up to the check out counter they are asking the prices and find they have to take some of the purchases out of the cart.

AN: What about those representatives who voted against the bill in the first round and their explanations?

Rangelpeople would be saying, "I told you to vote no, and we sent you to Congress to do what was best for us." The damage is irreparable; you can't repair when people don't have health insurance, they have homes they may lose, they pull their kids out of college and they don't go back. When the economy has a cold, poor folks get pneumonia.I feel very comfortable with my vote. Since that vote, a lot of changes have taken place.

AN: How do you explain that members of the Congressional Black Caucus, in the first round, voted 21 to 18 against the bill?

Rangel: A lot of the things we had expected to get as part of the package--the stimulus package, unemployment compensation, jobs and help for our schools and building and so forth--was not picked up by the Senate. But something very dramatic is going on right now. The Ways and Means Committee has had several issues before it involving tens of billions of dollars.

One is the alternative minimum tax, a tax that was never intended to fall on middle-class people. It was supposed to really go after the very rich people who didn't pay any taxes at all because of the exemptions, the deductions and the tax credits. Finally, in 1996 they targeted these people and we set out to take away all the deductions they had received and they were given the choice to file their taxes one or two ways: If they did not under the old system, they would have to pay an alternative minimum tax. However, they didn't adjust it for inflation, so a lot of people making $60,000 or 70,000 are being sucked into the alternative minimum tax, where they can't take advantage of their deductions and other credits, instead of eliminating it as we wanted to do in the Congress tax reform because it's so tremendously expensive.

AN: Why is it so expensive?

Rangel: Because it's put into the budget as though we ought to collect that tax; that's close to a trillion dollars. But if you eliminate it, it means you're going to have a reduction in what your estimate was. No member of the House and Senate is going to allow that to hit their voters. The difference between the House and the Senate, though, is that the House says we should go after these obscene windfall profits to make up for the difference. The Senate says forget about it, we'll just borrow money. In addition to this, we have a disaster bill to assist people after the fires, the floods and the hurricanes.