The name of the plan -- a tax break for small savers -- is appealing. But that is about all that can be said in favor of the proposal Rep. W. Henson Moore (R-La.) will offer as a substitute for the mortgage-housing bond bill when it reaches the House floor shortly.
Rep Moore wants to exclude from federal taxation the first $100 in interest an individual gets on a savings account in an institution that makes mortgage loans. He has lined up 191 co-sponsors, just a handful fewer than the votes necessary to get his bill passed. The temptation on the House floor will be to pass the thing, since the idea of helping the "small saver" has a lot of mileage in it during a political campaign.
That, of course, will not be the primary argument made for Rep. Moore's proposal. It is designed (or so the claim goes) to encourage more people to save more money and to entice them to put that money in savings and loans, which are having a hard time attracting investors now.
Unfortunately, there is little reason to think this proposal will do much to achieve either of those desirable goals. While it might encourage some big investors to shift some cash to S & Ls -- if they don't have some there already -- it won't be much of an incentive to those who don't already have savings accounts. Like almost all tax breaks, this proposal gives its greatest rewards to big wage earners. An exemption of this kind is always worth twice as much to the family in the 50-percent bracket as to the family in the 25-percent bracket.
The "small savers" are not saving much money these days for a simple reason that has little to do with interest rates or tax breaks. It is called inflation and it is either eating up all available income or its seemingly inevitable upward course suggests that saving money is a losing proposition. If the present rate of inflation continues for the next 12 months, $1,000 will buy more right now than it, plus the interest and the tax savings under this proposal, will buy a year from now.
The only certain thing about Rep. Moore's proposal is that if it is passed, the loss of revenue to the federal treasury will be hefty. Either that loss will have to be made up elsewhere or the federal deficit will have to be enlarged. Congress would do better to attack the real problem of the "small saver" -- inflation -- than to waste its time on political gimmicks like this one.