With his early career spent in public
advocacy, Adam Hughes continues to look out for the
public interest as the director of fiscal policy at
OMB Watch, a watchdog organization that monitors the
|At a glance
Hughes oversees all aspects of his organization's
work on the federal budget, tax policy, income and
wealth trends, and government performance issues.
That includes work to educate the media, citizens
and lawmakers about the fiscal challenges we face
as a country. It also includes developing policies
that are fiscally responsible and make sense over
the long term. The third component, the watchdog function,
is about understanding what the government is doing
Hughes admits that tax policy isn't sexy and has fewer grassroots supporters than does children's rights, for example. But tax policy affects us all and taxpayers would benefit by being informed if not engaged. Here he talks about what you need to know now.
The OMB in OMB Watch refers to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees federal regulation, the budget, information collection and dissemination, proposed legislation, testimony by agencies and much more. So you oversee the overseers?
That's the origin of the organization and we've evolved to do much more than watch the OMB now. Back in the '80s there were a number of Reagan measures that impacted the function of government. A number of groups thought it would be helpful to have an organization that understood OMB and how it functions.
Over the years, the organization has
expanded to include the entire federal government.
We work to understand how the federal government works,
rather than just saying this agency should work like
this and that agency should work like that.
You promote active citizen participation in our democracy. Which issues are most pressing to taxpayers right now?
Top of the list would have to be the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The reason it's at the top is the number of people it could impact next year.
AMT was designed back in the '60s to
make sure that rich people couldn't deduct their way
out of income tax. Because it wasn't indexed for inflation,
a lot of middle-income Americans, who it wasn't originally
designed to affect, now are having to pay AMT. Congress
has been patching the problem with one-year threshold
increases to raise the amount determining who pays
that. They've been waiting all year to legislate and
unless they reset the limit, 19 million new individuals
would pay, for a total of 23 million people paying
the AMT. [Editor's note: Within a week of the original
publication date of this interview, Congress passed
legislation that extends AMT
relief for one year to some 23 million taxpayers.]
Updated: Dec. 26, 2007