Originally published by Politic365 here.
If you were having a hard time figuring out which political party stands for what, following the recent battle over the expiring payroll tax cut won’t help.
In recent months, Democrats have proposed and touted payroll tax cuts that Congressional Republicans oppose, while at the same time Republicans are offering their own payroll cut that Democrats refuse to support.
Republicans are shooting down tax cuts and Democrats are fighting for them. Welcome to Seinfeld’s oft alluded-to Bizarro World.
Now that a deadline is looming for a holiday payroll tax increase, both parties are vying for a quick answer that will not add to the embarrassment of the recently failed “supercommittee.” Most Americans, however, see little difference in either party’s schemes.
Why the fight over what many see as the same solution? Politic365’s Charles Ellison gave his candid take on the politics of it: “Ultimately, both parties are playing base games. . .” With elections coming up, politicians will do what gets votes, which is far too often showing what your opponent will not do, not what you can do.
But for those of us who still have faith that our legislators have a more rational, economically-based explanation for their actions (yes, “they do exist”), good luck finding it in this talking-points dominated political world we live in.
“House Republicans have been opposed to extending the payroll tax cut for middle income Americans,” is what you will hear from anyone from the President to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Unfortunately for them, Senate Democrats are also opposed. The Senate recently backhanded Democratically-proposed legislation, with fewer affirmative votes than there are Democrats.
Republicans also blame their counterparts, claiming that Democrats are the reason their legislation has not gained headway. If the Democratic proposal was slapped down, the Republican version was shot out of the sky with a hypersonic missile, garnering approval from only 22 Senators.
Although both proposals seem contrary to previously-established party ideology, let us make you feel better: nothing has changed.
Republicans want to pay for a payroll tax cut by shrinking the number of federal employees and freezing their pay. Democrats want to pay for a payroll tax cut with the tax hikes on the “wealthy” they have been aiming for since Ralph Hall (R-TX) was being fed peas and carrots with a spoon (which is kind of confusing, since he is old enough to be doing the same now).
Much like the government’s yearly budget, a payroll tax cut or an extension is going to pass, one way or another. Both parties agree that increasing the payroll tax will cost jobs. “Independent economists have found that increasing the payroll tax could cost nearly 1 million American jobs and trigger another recession,” said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a statement.
Wait, a prominent Democratic organization just argued against raising taxes? Maybe this is the Bizarro World.
Given the payroll tax agreement, what remains is whether the adjoining legislation will have an impact on our economy, our pocketbook, and our families. Find an analyst that says that either party’s pitch will significantly improve our lives and I will show you someone who appears on cable news with the title “Democratic/Republican Party Strategist.”
So the real question is not “which party is going to offer the deepest cut?” Both parties will out-cut the other if given the chance. With the new political consensus that we can no longer afford tax breaks without a balanced increase in revenue production or a decrease in spending, the real question is the same as what it has always been: “What sacrifices are we going to have to make in order to keep those cuts?”
And that brings us back around to the same ideological divide we have always had.
Democrats want to counter the payroll tax cut with an increase in taxes on the wealthy, bringing in extra revenue that the government needs to support future spending. Walter Williams, economist, author, and pundit refutes the intended effects, “When individuals face higher income taxes, they report less income, buy tax shelters and hide their money.” Since federal tax collections have held steadily between 15 and 20 percent of the nation’s GDP since 1960 despite top tax rates that have been between 35 and 91 percent in the same time period, the premise behind Democratic proposals may be flawed.
Republicans want to freeze pay increases on federal government workers for the near future and reduce the total number of employees in the government, saving the taxpayer money in the long-run. In a fragile economy with a wary unemployment rate, the federal government is the only sector that has held steady or remained at full employment. Democrats are worried that reducing federal jobs will hurt employment with no real payoff. Considering also that minorities, especially African Americans, are employed at a higher rate in the federal government than within the private sector and Democrats walk away with a “race card,” ready to be played the next time a White Republican mentions “small government.”
Although surface pundits and political strategists may want you to believe that your party of choice has somehow betrayed its core values and become the “hypocritical devils” they have always told you they are, Republicans are still for shrinking government and cutting expenses and Democrats are still for maintaining the size of government and its benefits while raising revenues through new taxes.
Everything else is just Politicanese. Not fluent yet? Don’t worry, by this time next year, it will be second nature.
Justin Vélez-Hagan is Senior Contributing Writer and Commentator for Politic365.com. He is also the National Executive Director of The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, an international developer of senior living facilities, and is a reservist in the U.S. Air Force. He can be reached at Justin@Politic365.com.