Congress has caught FICA Fever. If you look it up you will find it means a desire to cut payroll taxes, while ignoring the fictional Trust Funds. Let me say at the outset that I have no idea if a "payroll tax holiday" of a thousand dollars or two per taxpayer will help the economy. For the sake of discussion, let's say that a temporary tax cut of that magnitude would be a good idea. Characterizing the tax cut as a cut in the FICA tax means that the bookkeeping entry in the Trust Fund will be a hundred billion dollars or two less than what was expected. Many people get considerable comfort from those annual bookkeeping entries. Perhaps some kind of refundable tax credit credited monthly against all withholding would work just as well.
It appears that the deal to extend the FICA cut for two months has collapsed. I am usually a supporter of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. However their reasoning here eludes me. All too often, members seem too ready to compromise on fundamental principles. I applaud the holdouts in such cases. But there is no basic principle at stake here. The most important feature of the bill isn't the tax cut; it is the acceleration of the Keystone decision. There is a fundamental principle at stake there. Will a small group of ignorant environmental radicals be allowed to hold the nation's energy independence as hostage to their discredited theories? This bill forces the President to make a decision by March, 2012. If he stops the project, he will hand us a great election issue. That is not playing politics. A Republican administration will revisit the issue and the only cost will be a one year delay. But if Obama wins the election, the pipeline is dead.
Returning to the tax cut, I just don't see the two month extension as caving in. I have heard some true believers want to write off Senator Rubio and other new GOP Senators for supporting the short extension. Are they serious? I am really sick of the all or nothing wing of the Tea Party. I hope I live to see President Rubio sworn in some day. He is as perfect a candidate as we have. Is he not permitted to make a trivial tactical compromise to improve the chances for the pipeline?
The political climate is treacherous. We can look forward to a venomous campaign of personal slander, multiple lies and red herrings. Why would any committed conservative want to hand the liberals an issue they can spin so easily? How many more times do we have to hear that mean old Republicans oppose a middle class tax cut? Who cares if it is paid for immediately? If we lose the election next year, America will be in the deepest trouble since the Civil War.
I admire both John Boehnor and Eric Cantor. They are principled conservatives who live in the real world that is Washington. All year long they have carefully maneuvered to keep important issues alive, and to avoid the insidious traps laid by their opponents. I am not aware of a better job done by minority leadership in all of American history. Yet they are not perfect. Boo Hoo. Get over it and support their efforts. That is the best way to get the changes we need in 2013.