Kadner: Battles for tax cuts put greed over country
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 February 14, 2012 10:00PM
Updated: March 16, 2012 8:12AM
It seems the federal government is about to duplicate the financial disaster that has Illinois on the brink of financial insolvency.
According to reports out of Washington, D.C., Republicans are about to wave the white flag and extend the 2 percent Social Security payroll tax cut for another year.
And that should send a loud message to voters that balancing the federal budget and preserving the Social Security Trust Fund for future generations is not a priority for either political party.
But politicians don’t deserve all the blame for this one. They’re giving Americans what they want ... a lot of double talk.
About 10 years ago, President George W. Bush suggested that 2 percent of the Social Security payroll tax be placed into a 401(k) fund for future retirees. Democrats blasted the idea. The Social Security Trust Fund was facing financial problems, they said, and reducing contributions by 2 percent would accelerate its demise.
But in 2011, the Obama administration led the charge for cutting the payroll tax by 2 percent for one year.
That money wasn’t placed in a 401(k) fund to help people retire, as Bush suggested. It was a 2 percent increase in workers’ paychecks designed to stimulate the economy. Very few Democrats complained about that plan.
As the tax cut was about to expire in December, Obama and his fellow Democrats used a congressional debate over extending the cut to hammer Republicans.
The GOP-controlled House, which had previously pushed through an extension of a Bush tax cut for wealthy Americans, opposed extending the payroll tax cut for the working class. As polls indicated that voters were turning against the Republicans, Congress agreed to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.
But the federal government was supposed to replace the money lost to the Social Security Trust Fund out of general revenue funds. This is the same U.S. government that was already trillions of dollars in debt.
As far as I can determine, the Social Security Trust Fund has not yet been replenished.
I understand the political dynamic at work here.
The Republicans backed tax cuts for the rich, and the Democrats backed tax cuts for the middle-class, and President Obama suddenly had a great issue to differentiate the ideologies of the two parties during the 2012 election.
As for protecting Social Security, which is part of the Democratic Party’s holy grail, well that was no longer important.
I have stated in the past that I oppose the idea of extending tax cuts for the rich. I believe in fair play. But by pandering to voters, neither political party is doing what’s best for the country.
I’m reminded of that credit card commercial where Jimmy Fallon announces that everyone likes more cash, except for the baby who throws food in his face.
The future solvency of Social Security has been exploited by both parties to raise the level of fear among voters. Yet, Democratic and Republican leaders now seem content to borrow from Social Security today to buy votes in November.
President Obama on Tuesday held a news conference to urge passage of the payroll tax cut extension, saying it would put $1,000 in the pockets of the average American family over the course of a year. He didn’t mention that the cost of the tax cut is about $100 billion.
“It’s up to every American to do his fair share,” the president said, implying that the rich are getting tax breaks while the middle class is not.
But since when is getting money the same as “doing your fair share?” Doing your fair share, to me, implies sacrifice. Shared sacrifice is a concept that makes sense to me when our nation is in trouble.
Somehow, that idea has been turned on its head, and “doing your fair share” has come to mean, “Where’s mine?”
“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” President John F. Kennedy once said.
President Obama, during his news conference, was surrounded by working Americans who wanted to explain why they needed $40 more a week in their paychecks. Obama said he doesn’t trust Republicans to pass the payroll tax cut extension and urged Americans to send a message to Congress.
Instead of appealing to “the better angels of our nature,” as President Lincoln once did, elected leaders of both parties today implore us to ignore the common good for personal benefit.
And that shift in philosophy poses a greater threat to the future of this nation than the national debt.