Most Americans Would Only Get $20 From Tax Cut

The Dow Jones is up, unemployment is down, and the economy is booming.

Middle-income Americans, however, may still feel the crunch -- especially as interest rates rise. They'll see little help from the $70 billion tax cut the Senate is expected to pass.

Remember a few summers ago when we all got checks in the mail from Uncle Sam after the first Bush tax cuts? The bill moving through Congress this week extends those tax cuts for a couple more years, giving tax breaks for investors and helping about 15 million Americans avoid something called the alternative minimum tax.

The Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank, discovered that the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers -- the people who make more than $1.8 million -- would get back $82,000. Middle-income Americans making between $27,000 and $47,000 would get $20.

"This is another series of tax cuts for rich people. The vast majority of the benefits goes to people earning over a hundred thousand dollars a year," said Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center.

Republicans in Congress defended this tax cut, saying the robust economy was partly thanks to the cuts passed three years ago.

"The American economy has surged because of the Republican tax relief," said Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

There's also a move in Congress to pass a second tax cut soon, so middle-income Americans may eventually get a little more than $20. That's little comfort right now to those struggling to make payments on their homes because of rising interest rates.

Heidi, who didn't want ABC to use her last name, bought her dream home in Texas using an adjustable rate mortgage. Now that house is gone. Like millions of Americans, Heidi got her mortgage at a time when rates were low. With an adjustable rate mortgage after a few years, you have to start paying the market interest rate, which in Heidi's case -- and indeed the case of many Americans -- had gone up.

"Once that adjustable rate kicked in," she said, "it just got from bad to worse, very bad."

Heidi's payments nearly doubled, and she lost the house. She's not the only one -- in the last year, foreclosures have increased by 60 percent. Not all foreclosures end with the bank seizing your home. Sometimes you can work out a new payment plan, and sometimes you can sell your home.

If you're having trouble making your payments, "Good Morning America's" personal finance expert Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Capital Management, says selling is something you should strongly consider. Although by all accounts, the housing market is cooling and it's getting harder to sell your house these days.

Hobson worries that the trend of the rising foreclosure rate could hurt the entire economy.

"It is not a good sign for people to be basically losing their homes," Hobson said. "And I think we're actually at the early stages of this sad foreclosure story."

In the next year or so, nearly a quarter of people with mortgages will have their interest rates reset. If you are caught in the crunch, you may be tempted to consider a 50-year mortgage, which allows you to make smaller payments over a longer period of time. That may not be the ideal solution, though, Hobson said.

"After the first five years, the rate fluctuates on a yearly basis," she said.

That would mean 45 years of mortgage insecurity, she said.

ABC News's Kate Snow and Dan Harris contributed to this report.

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