One of the many things left out of the debt-ceiling deal that cleared Congress was an extension of the payroll tax cut that Congress enacted as part of the 2009 stimulus package and subsequently agreed to extend for one more year -- this year -- beyond its initial expiration date. Both the Obama White House and Democratic congressional leaders said that they wanted an additional one-year extension of that tax cut included in the deal that was just past, but, in the face of Republican opposition, the proposal was dropped.
In the wake of the deal, the president, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have all cited an extension of the cut -- along with an extension of long-term unemployment insurance and the creation of an Infrastructure Bank -- as one of the stimulative, job-creating measures that Congress should now adopt. The cut certainly puts more money in Americans' pockets. In its current form, it reduces the Social Security deduction from people's paychecks from 6.2 percent of wages (up to an annual threshold of $106,800) to 4.2 percent. A person making $50,000 in wages gets to bring home $1,000 more over the course of a year. The cut is particularly helpful to low-income Americans who don't make enough to pay income taxes but who have the deduction taken out of their paychecks no matter how low their income.
If Republicans were really as anti-tax as they claim to be, you'd think they'd support extending this tax cut. They don't, of course. In an article that ran in The Hill on Wednesday, both Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl and Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander said that "there is no appetite for extending either the payroll tax [cut] or the unemployment benefits."
Which means, come January, Republicans are going to raise the taxes of every American who gets a paycheck. You'd think this would open an avenue of attack for Democrats. Then again, the Obama administration did such a poor job of publicizing the tax cuts in the stimulus package that most Americans didn't even know they'd gotten them. While there's not much grounds for hope that the White House can do a better job letting people know that the Republicans are now taking their tax cut away, we can always hope that congressional Democrats will realize they've been handed an issue on a silver platter. Throughout the deliberations of the Super-Duper Committee of 12, and as the clock ticks toward year's end, Democrats should be screaming that Republicans are about to take away your tax cut, that the GOP's real commitment -- forget all this crap about reducing the deficit or even lowering taxes across the board -- is to sticking it to working people.
Nancy? Harry? Take it away.