“FORTUNE — Okay, middle-class taxpayers: Listen up. Our national government in Washington is screwing you again. This time the screwing involves the way that two new income tax surcharges, supposedly designed to affect only the “rich,” will reach deeper and deeper into the middle class unless something is done now to rein them in.
I’m talking about the 0.9% tax surcharge on the amount by which individuals’ “earned income” — such as salaries and fees — exceeds $200,000 this year, and the 3.8% surcharge on some or all the investment income of single households with an adjusted gross income of more than $200,000, and married households with an adjusted gross of $250,000 and up.
These surcharges were built into the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). The screwing isn’t the tax surcharges themselves — it’s the fact that the thresholds for them aren’t indexed for inflation. This means that unless something is done, more and more people will be subject to these taxes as inflation boosts incomes.
Let me show you how this works, using numbers from a study that the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center did a year ago.
For 2013, the TPC said, about 2.4% of households would pay one or both of the surtaxes. By 2022, the level will have risen to 4.6%. Project it out another decade, and you’re at 9%. Given how things work, you would probably be looking at the surtaxes affecting 20% or more of taxpayers in places like New York and California. (You can find the relevant page from the TPC study here.)
You can make the case that people who are currently subject to either or both taxes — who include me — are upper middle class or rich, and can and should fork over some extra money to help the rest of the country. But when you look 10 or 20 years out, you see that unless you index the tax thresholds, these taxes will have expanded well beyond the “rich,” however you define that, and will be clawing away at increasing swaths of the middle class…..”