Employees, employers and those out of work were able to enjoy a long weekend celebration that had nothing to do with Mardi Gras.
On Friday, President Obama signed legislation that passed both the House of Representatives (239-132) and the Senate (60-36) that same day. At the heart of the measure is an already present federal payroll tax that will be extended through the end of 2012.
Contained in the $143 billion bill is a 2 percent hold on payroll deductions and continuation of $300 a week jobless benefits to those who have been out of work for more than six months. States would also receive $1 billion for skills assessments for long term unemployed, underemployed and self-employed.
Before you start thinking about that extra slice of King Cake as a congratulatory move, stop and think what the Washington crowd has done in the name of bipartisanship.
It would also be wise to exercise healthy suspicion regarding the implications.
Remember, it is an election year. Congress and the president claim everyone should be happy with their move, at least through Election Day on Nov. 6.
If working people are being offered a 2 percent reduction on a tax extension – actually it is the maintaining of tax break implemented during the Bush Administration – who is paying to help support the 13 million Americans that have registered as being unemployed?
Obama said that extending payroll tax breaks would help support recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. “I’m going to sign this bill right away… . That’s a big deal,” Obama said during a public announcement.
With the extensions, individuals earning $50,000 a year would continue to keep $1,000 that othewise would have appeared on pay checks looking like tax increass.
While there are people that legitimately need and deserve assistance – after all many had paid into the system – encouraging people to give up looking for work because the government will pay the bills, is detrimental to rebuilding the economy.
Obama is looking for ways to gain public favor as he nears a time when opposing candidates will stop fighting among themselves and launch a frontal attack regarding the president’s record on multiple issues. Winning public favor with free money is a way for government to garnish support, even if it is temporary.
Sounds pretty good on the surface, but with a $15.4 trillion national debt how might the costs be covered for multiple already existing breaks? Oh yeah, the government will pay for it. In that case, pass another slice of King Cake.