By proposing to curtail the tax deduction for mortgage interest, the president’s deficit commission is sounding an alarm.
The home mortgage deduction is one of the most widely used and expensive tax subsidies. More than 35 million Americans claim it, and the federal government estimates it will cost the Treasury $131 billion in forgone revenue in 2012. Its size, popularity and link to the emotionally charged American notion of homeownership has made it so politically sacrosanct that there are serious doubts whether Congress will even entertain the idea.
But by raising the specter of ending one of the most cherished tax breaks, the commission is trying to jar the public into recognizing the magnitude of the nation’s budget deficit and some of the drastic steps that might be needed to close it.