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Jewish World Review
Dec. 7, 2011
/ 11 Kislev, 5772
Tax games threaten nation
President Barack Obama's great cause of the moment is to further defund our endangered and endangering Social Security system on the grounds that a temporary tax reduction will help the economy, which temporary tax cuts have done about as often as two plus two has equaled five. But wait, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has a solution that would extend joblessness to make the proposal work.
To compensate for a new one-year payroll-tax cut for both employers and employees -- and satisfy Republican demands that some way be found to pay for it -- he initially wanted a permanent surcharge on the income taxes of business owners and the much smaller portion of others with incomes of $1 million a year.
That would discourage hiring, of course, and Reid has now reconsidered, saying he would reduce the surcharge amount and make it for 10 years instead of lasting until the much-encouraged end days. He would also eliminate the payroll-tax reduction for businesses -- there goes the slightest incentive for expansion -- and lower the amount of the cuts for workers.
Why, how can Republicans refuse this deal, he asks as he also agrees to some spending cuts GOP members of Congress have been asking for. They are in a spot -- that's the whole point of this charade -- and many would like to give all those workers out there a further break on the payroll tax. But what a number of Republicans are still asking for is that the tax relief be made up entirely with spending cuts, thereby causing Obama to have at them with scorn and derision.
He says the Republicans weren't so insistent on paying for tax cuts during the Bush years. He obviously thinks two wrongs make a right. No, he thinks multiple wrongs make a right. Thus he wasted a year on a health-care plan that sickens the economy. Thus he pushed for a theoretically dubious, improperly aimed, shovel-unready, Porky Pig stimulus that did little to soften present misery but plenty to enlarge future peril. Thus he ignored the leaders of his own debt commission while piling record deficit on record deficit and promising more.
What he obviously does not get is that the 2003 tax cut boosted the economy while his previous temporary tax cuts did nothing of the sort. And what he most scarily does not get is that the debt situation did not begin to get totally out of hand until Democrats took over Congress in 2006 and Obama took over the presidency in 2009. What we now face is an invitation to myriad disasters and a sure-fire hindrance to revitalized GDP growth short of serious multitrillion-dollar spending slashes along with tax reform over the next 10 years.
Enacting another temporary payroll-tax reduction would be a splendid time for both parties to get honest and explain that one of the most threatening programs is Social Security, which the tax is mainly meant to pay for. The system is already in the red, the cut would put it more in the red, and Treasury cannot begin to pay back what's owed without truly onerous tax increases for everyone, vast cuts in other programs, even deadlier deficits than we've seen to date or some combination of the above that would give us havoc in all directions.
Believe it or not, there are other, relatively painless, program-transforming means of addressing the problem and paying for the tax reduction, such as redoing the formula that now causes the initial Social Security benefits per individual to be higher even in inflation-adjusted dollars than someone in the same personal circumstances the previous year.
The secret to fixing things is to drop the demagoguery. The secret is for Obama to be more dedicated to the country than to one-upmanship. The secret is for more Republicans --some of whom are encouraging further Medicare means-testing -- to find the courage to start fighting for Social Security readjustments now, demagoguery or not.
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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
• 12/05/11: Why Wal-Mart serves us better than Barney Frank
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• 10/07/11: Baptists, bootleggers and Wall Street protesters
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• 07/27/11: The threat behind the debt
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• 07/20/11: Leftist babble makes debt crisis even worse
• 07/18/11: Time to raise demagoguery ceiling
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