Friday, October 26, 2012

What Does $40 Mean Now?

    Long before "Romnesia," the Barack Obama demagogues came up with last year's What Forty Dollars Means campaign.  The White House waxes nostalgic in its retelling of the tale:
In December of 2011, and again in February of 2012, the American people took to the Internet to tell Washington in no uncertain terms that letting the payroll tax cut expire was not acceptable. Tens of thousands of Americans tweeted, called and emailed to remind Washington that politics is not a game – serving the American people is a serious responsibility and the decisions made in Congress have serious consequences on people’s lives.
Thanks in no small part to their efforts to make their voices heard... Lawmakers extended the payroll tax cut for 160 million American workers through the rest of 2012...
The thing is, $40 is real money for working families, as people all over the country told us. That money buys things like school lunches, the gas needed to get to work or visit ailing relatives, and co-pays for doctor visits and essential prescription medicines.
    Excerpts from some of the responses of real Americans are also preserved for the ages.  Here are just two of the 30,000 the White House received:
$40 can buy me 2 five pounds bags of rice. I can eat that for nearly 3 weeks ($10.00). It can buy me a 5 pounds of fish ($12.00); I can eat 1 or 2 pieces a day for 2 weeks. I can buy myself 2 18-count carton of eggs ($7.50). If I did not have it I would probably began to lose weight and suffer from malnutrition. I have been struggling to make is since age 18.
Kailua, Hawaii: Priscilla 
$40.00 is the amount sometimes between paying the electric or not. We cannot pay more. We do not have it.
Nampa, Idaho: Pam 
    So with only about two months left in 2012, the White House is probably getting ready to fire up the old $40 meme again, right?  Turns out, not so much.  The latest official word from the White House came from Jay Carney on September 7, 2012:
MR. CARNEY:  The payroll tax cut originally and through its extension was a temporary measure.  And as you know, when it comes to the middle-class tax cuts, the President believes we should make them permanent -- on the so-called -- the tax cuts under President Bush for the middle class, for the 98 percent.
The payroll tax cut was a temporary measure, and we’ll evaluate the question of whether we need to extend it at the end of the year when we’re looking at a whole range of issues, obviously, that will need to be worked on to ensure that we continue the progress that we’ve made.
    Sounds like those 30,000 people the White House heard from might be on their own coming up with gas and grocery money.  Unless, of course, you believe that Obama Tax Plan that claims that the average middle class family will continue to save $2,200 in tax next year, even without the $1,000 from the payroll tax cut!  Unbelievable, isn't it?  Yes, as I documented here, it is quite unbelievable.  Well, at least food and gas prices are under control.  What's that?
"A lot of low- and middle-income households are mired with a stagnant income at a time when food and energy costs keep moving higher," said Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
    So, what does $40 mean? Has anyone asked the president lately?  Fortunately, some other Democrats appear unwilling to let a good crisis go to waste.  The Hill just reported:
Democrats are sounding increasingly open to extending the payroll tax cut after months of keeping it at arm’s length.
Leading members of the party, like Republicans in Washington, had previously appeared to have no issue with letting the tax break lapse on Jan. 1, an outcome that would raise taxes for some 160 million workers.
But with the economic recovery puttering along, prominent Democrats like Larry Summers and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) are suggesting that the party rethink that approach — even as they continue to stress that the tax cut remains nothing more than a temporary measure.
“I always thought that talk of payroll being completely sunsetted was a bit premature,” a Senate Democratic aide told The Hill this week...
Ending the 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax had appeared to be a rare part of the cliff that top Democrats and Republicans agreed on.
But lobbyists and aides on Capitol Hill say there might be good political reason for Democrats to push for a third year of the holiday, as it could give them another political chip in what could be protracted fiscal-cliff talks.
    Whew! Looks like we might dodge the bipartisan bullet and get the issue back in the political column where it belongs.  Maybe there's still time to dust off What Forty Dollars Means after all.

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