Thursday, February 16, 2012

Payroll Tax Deal = More Gridlock? How?

The "payroll tax cut, unemployment extension, doctor reimbursement fix" package is being hailed as a rare example of healthy bipartisan dealingmaking -- at least a temporary unraveling of gridlock. What nonsense. Gridlock should be measured by whether our system is able to deal with the great challenges facing our country, not by whether legislation (that turns a blind eye toward these problems) moves through the Congress. The payroll tax cut deal is just going to make our long term fiscal problem worse. Yes, the one year price tag is only $100 billion and, to be sure, we need some economic stimulus. But this extension is solidifying what was meant to be a temporary tax cut put into place at the height of the economic crisis. Americans will now assume this is a tax they will never have to pay again -- indeed, where will be find a politician willing to increase this tax back to 6.2%? Forget about it. So, we have created another $1 trillion over ten years hole to fill. The gap between what we spend on government and raise in revenues is about 8.5 percent of GDP. This deal has done nothing to narrow the differences bewteen our parties on how to bridge this gap. The proverbial can has been kicked down the road until after the election. Much the same can be said about the doctor reimbursement rate which was not slashed as called for in the 1996 Clinton-Gingrich budget deal. This issue is exhibit A for how we just will not grapple as a society with ways to lower health care expenditures. Every year since 2001, we've either cut other programs or added to the deficit to avoid this health care expenditure. And so it is again. The only redeeming feature of this deal is that it adds another set of issues to the massive amount of tax cuts and other programs that will expire at the end of the year. Perhaps this pile is getting so large that it will now serve as kindling for the grand bargain on the budget that is so desperately needed.

No comments:

Post a Comment