From the Wall Street Journal:
All of those twentysomethings who voted for Barack Obama last year are about to experience the change they haven't been waiting for: the return of income tax bracket creep. Buried in Nancy Pelosi's health-care bill is a provision that will partially repeal tax indexing for inflation, meaning that as their earnings rise over a lifetime these youngsters can look forward to paying higher rates even if their income gains aren't real.
In order to raise enough money to make their plan look like it won't add to the deficit, House Democrats have deliberately not indexed two main tax features of their plan: the $500,000 threshold for the 5.4-percentage-point income tax surcharge; and the payroll level at which small businesses must pay a new 8% tax penalty for not offering health insurance.
This is a sneaky way for politicians to pry more money out of workers every year without having to legislate tax increases. The negative effects of failing to index compound over time, yielding a revenue windfall for government as the years go on. The House tax surcharge is estimated to raise $460.5 billion over 10 years, but only $30.9 billion in 2011, rising to $68.4 billion in 2019, according to the Joint Tax Committee.
Americans of a certain age have seen this movie before. In 1960, only 3% of tax filers paid a 30% or higher marginal tax rate. By 1980, after the inflation of the 1970s, the share was closer to 33%, according to a Heritage Foundation analysis of tax returns.
These stealth tax increases—forcing ever more Americans to pay higher tax rates on phantom gains in income—were widely seen to be unjust. And in 1981 as part of the Reagan tax cuts, a bipartisan coalition voted to index the tax brackets for inflation.