In the recent fiasco over extending the payroll-tax
cut, the Tea-Party Republicans in the House of Representatives have shown their
true colors – and the Republican House leadership is beholden to them and
complicit in their travesty of a brinksmanship strategy. When in recent history
has it been that the Democratic Party has
put together a deal to extend a tax cut, with no offsetting spending increases
or expansions of federal authority, and a self-proclaimed small-government Tea-Party bloc has thwarted the extension? Well, it has happened now. It shows that the
Tea-Party members of the House care less about actually reducing the scope and
power of the federal government, and much more about opposing whatever the
Democrats claim to support.
While the brinksmanship may seem fun to some in the Tea Party, while they delude themselves that they are standing on principle, this is no game. An increase of the payroll tax from 4.2% to 6.2% will cost virtually everyone who makes an income, potentially with devastating effects for families who struggle to make ends meet in an unprecedentedly harsh job market in a ruin of an economy brought about by the bailed-out banks and their political allies. Unlike the regular income tax, which does not apply to the lowest marginal income range, the payroll tax affects virtually every paycheck. Programs such as Social Security and Medicare, to which the payroll tax is dedicated, are means of redistributing wealth from struggling young workers and their families, toward the most affluent generation of senior citizens in history. These programs are most culpable in driving the United States further toward either a debt default or a hyperinflation intended to prevent such a default. And the Tea-Party Republicans seem to be content in amplifying this burden by blocking attempts to alleviate it by Barack Obama and 89% of the Senate. Even those people – mostly not known for their love of liberty – recognize how devastating an increase in the payroll tax will be to millions of Americans, who struggle from paycheck to paycheck because of the depredations of bailed-out financial and political elites.
It is ironic that the House Tea Party made barely a squeak about the indefinite-detention provisions aimed at American citizens in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act – but is resisting a tax-cut extension to the point of likely killing it. Is it not the case that tax cuts, the allowance for productive private citizens to keep more of their money, are a core element of any reasonable limited-government platform?
The House Tea Party claims that it is simply holding out for a full year’s extension and that two months are simply not enough. These are ideologues without prudence; they know not what is good for their own vision. A two-month extension grants time – time in which to arrive at a longer extension, time in which to rally public opinion and negotiate terms. Without that time, the extension will simply collapse. The Senate leadership has stated that it will not negotiate, that the House must accept the deal as it was overwhelmingly passed in the Senate. The Tea Party in the House is hoping that the Senate will budge, but I have this nagging suspicion that this is highly improbable. And we will be stuck with the bill for this massive incompetence.
So what will they have? Two months, with a strong chance of a year – or nothing? Because that is the choice. How they decide will show whether they really care about increasing the scope of individual liberty, or whether they are of the same cynical, manipulative, myopic political breed that they claim to seek to replace. Merry Christmas, everyone. Your gift to Congress may yet be 2% of your income.