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Wildfire season has already begun in Colorado


destroying more homes and creating a heavier burden on emergency crews than nearly any other succession of fires in Colorado history. What people might not remember is that the fire season that year didn’t start with those summertime blazes, which were ...


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Editor's note: Rodney PMock is an assistant professor of accounting at the Orfalea College of Business at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California (CNN) -- Buried deep within President Barack Obama's $3.73 trillion budget for 2012 are changes to the tax code that directly affect homeowners, including a significant shrinking of the mortgage-interest deductionFor every dollar a middle-class family spends on mortgage interest, it gets a 15-cent tax deduction in returnMillionaires who do the same enjoy a deduction more than twice as generousTo make things fairer, the president's budget calls for reducing the total amount of itemized deductions a taxpayer may claim on income more than $200,000, for single filers, and $250,000 for married couplesThe mortgage-interest deduction, as well as real property taxes, would be part of this reduction This is a step in the right direction, but if the administration really wants to increase federal revenue and shrink the staggering national debt, it should go even furtherIt should eliminate the mortgage-interest deduction entirelyMillions of Americans are not in the foreclosure process yet, but severely "underwater" in their homes, meaning that their homes are worth less than their underlying mortgages var currExpandable = "expand15"; if(typeof CNN.expandableMap === 'object') { CNN.expandableMap.push(currExpandable); } var currExpandableHeight = 360; Obama says budget meets goals var mediaObj = new Object(); mediaObj.type = 'video'; mediaObj.contentId = '; mediaObj.source = '/video/politics/2011/02/15/sot.obama.budget.cnn'; mediaObj.source = mediaObj.source.replace('/video/','); mediaObj.lgImage = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('src'); mediaObj.lgImageX = 640; mediaObj.lgImageY = currExpandableHeight; mediaObj.origImageX = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('width'); mediaObj.origImageY = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('height'); mediaObj.contentType = 'Video'; CNN.expElements.expand15Store = mediaObj; var currExpandable = "expand25"; if(typeof CNN.expandableMap === 'object') { CNN.expandableMap.push(currExpandable); } var currExpandableHeight = 360; Budget plan dubbed 'debt on arrival' var mediaObj = new Object(); mediaObj.type = 'video'; mediaObj.contentId = '; mediaObj.source = '/video/politics/2011/02/15/acosta.obama.budget.cnn'; mediaObj.source = mediaObj.source.replace('/video/','); mediaObj.lgImage = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('src'); mediaObj.lgImageX = 640; mediaObj.lgImageY = currExpandableHeight; mediaObj.origImageX = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('width'); mediaObj.origImageY = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('height'); mediaObj.contentType = 'Video'; CNN.expElements.expand25Store = mediaObj; var currExpandable = "expand35"; if(typeof CNN.expandableMap === 'object') { CNN.expandableMap.push(currExpandable); } var currExpandableHeight = 360; Gergen: Obama budget 'disappointing' var mediaObj = new Object(); mediaObj.type = 'video'; mediaObj.contentId = '; mediaObj.source = '/video/politics/2011/02/14/tsr.gergen.obama.budget.cnn'; mediaObj.source = mediaObj.source.replace('/video/','); mediaObj.lgImage = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('src'); mediaObj.lgImageX = 640; mediaObj.lgImageY = currExpandableHeight; mediaObj.origImageX = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('width'); mediaObj.origImageY = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('height'); mediaObj.contentType = 'Video'; CNN.expElements.expand35Store = mediaObj; var currExpandable = "expand45"; if(typeof CNN.expandableMap === 'object') { CNN.expandableMap.push(currExpandable); } var currExpandableHeight = 360; Deficit: 'Stink bomb' in garden party var mediaObj = new Object(); mediaObj.type = 'video'; mediaObj.contentId = '; mediaObj.source = '/video/bestoftv/2011/02/14/exp.ps.budget.deficit.simpson.cnn'; mediaObj.source = mediaObj.source.replace('/video/','); mediaObj.lgImage = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('src'); mediaObj.lgImageX = 640; mediaObj.lgImageY = currExpandableHeight; mediaObj.origImageX = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('width'); mediaObj.origImageY = $(currExpandable).select('img.box-image')[0].readAttribute('height'); mediaObj.contentType = 'Video'; CNN.expElements.expand45Store = mediaObj; var cnnRelatedTopicKeys = []; RELATED TOPICS cnnRelatedTopicKeys.push('Federal_Budget'); Federal Budget cnnRelatedTopicKeys.push('Barack_Obama'); Barack Obama cnnRelatedTopicKeys.push('Internal_Revenue_Service'); Internal Revenue Service cnnRelatedTopicKeys.push('Tax_Policy'); Tax Policy For many of these "owners," the only reason they are hanging on for dear life is the mortgage-interest deductionGiven the downward spiral in home sales and the rise in foreclosures and short sales, this deduction represents just another tax-subsidy time bomb waiting to explodeThe mortgage-interest deduction is one of the federal government's largest tax expenditures, costing an estimated $131 billion in 2012Where did it come from? Its legislative history is murkyIt was not originally mentioned in the Internal Revenue CodeRather, when Congress enacted the modern federal income tax in 1913, it made all interest payments, business and personal, deductibleThe mortgage-interest deduction was not expressly mentioned in the tax code until 1986 when Congress eliminated the deductibility of personal interest, but allowed deductions on interest on home loans up to $1 million and home-equity loans up to $100,000This was partly because of aggressive lobbying by the National Association of RealtorsThe deduction was supposed to encourage the American dream of home ownership, but research has shown that it hasn't really done soThat is because its benefits only go to taxpayers who itemize deductions -- that is, those who are in higher tax brackets, and thus already likely to own a home even without the deductionNot only does research indicate that the mortgage-interest deduction fails to encourage home ownership, but Internal Revenue Service data also show that taxpayers who use it more heavily are more likely to be underwaterAnd the deduction's popularity may be overstated -- a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed that Americans, when asked to rank their preferences for different ways to raise government revenue, preferred a national sales tax or a limit on the mortgage-interest deduction over higher gasoline taxes or new taxes on employer-provided health benefitsMaybe we need to rip off the mortgage-deduction bandage -- and sooner rather than laterAmericans would be better off with a much larger standard deduction, or lower tax rates for all, or another more equitable tax reduction optionAnd, for those underwater, whether rich or poor, the deduction is merely delaying the inevitable realization that you no longer own your home -- the bank doesThe opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rodney PMock

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