Friday, December 23, 2011

The Payroll Tax Hoo-hah – Part II

Well I had it mostly right. Senate Democrats did cave and give up on having “millionaires” pay for continuing the 2% payroll tax holiday through higher income taxes. What I did not imagine is the length House Republicans would go to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Boehner was unable to convince enough fellow Republicans that they had won yet again and leave well enough alone. Instead, using the line that went something like the “American people are tired of kicking the can down the road,” they tried to grab another concession from the Democrats and force the Administration into making an early decision on building a gas pipeline.

The American people are not that stupid. They know neither side wanted blame for taking away their goodies. If that means Congress extends the payroll tax holiday in two-month increments, it’s no matter to them as long as it’s extended. The public may agree that a year-long deal is preferable, but if the choice is between putting up with partisan debate once again to get the benefit for the next two months or not getting the benefit at all, no one—except apparently some delusional Republicans—thought trying to cram something else down the Democrats’ throat was going to work.

Once the Senate voted 89-10 for the two-month extension (which included continued extension of unemployment benefits) the House should have gone through one round of speeches bemoaning the lack of vision in the Senate, passed the bill and gone home for the holidays.

Should politicians wonder why their approval rating is now under 10%, they need look no further than this latest round of nonsense.

Here’s the problem facing voters. Whenever we give power to either party (usually because the other party badly overreached), those voted in (usually by the slimmest of margins) think they have a mandate for their most partisan platform points. Mixed government used to be a solution because the two parties had to work together to accomplish anything and those discussion encouraged compromise. However, if the 535 children in today’s Congress were still in kindergarten the teacher would assign them repeated time-outs for their behavior.

We’ve lost the middle; how will we get it back? The “Third Way” tries to affect discussion by reasoned analysis that does not follow right- or left- wing philosophy. Nice try, but with the rise of Fox News and the yelling commentator, how can quiet, thoughtful ideas get any airtime? Ultimately when enough people disagree with the leadership of one party or another they form a third party. Historically, it has been the extremes who have broken off to form the third party.

Are today’s moderates yet mad enough to become tomorrow’s extremes and form a third party? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Disgust doesn’t seem to lead to change, only to fanaticism. But hey, a new year is coming and hope springs eternal.

~ Jim

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