Attention middle-class Americans: One of the men running for president wants to raise your taxes. And it's not the guy who has the job already. For some time, Mitt Romney has been promising to reduce income tax rates and then pay for these cuts by closing loopholes. But he's never specified which loopholes he'd close and now we know why.
Two days after Congress passed its extension of the payroll tax cut through the rest of 2012, The Washington Post sounded a page-one alarm about the “Taxmageddon” that looms when the measure expires next year. Starting then, the current 10.4 percent payroll tax will rise to its usual 12.4 percent. At the same time, the Bush-era income tax cuts will expire, raising the top marginal rate from 35 percent to the Clinton-era 39.6 percent (and possibly, if Congress refuses to cut a deal with President Obama, raising taxes on the middle class, too).
I may have done the Washington Post and its super committee correspondent, Lori Montgomery, a slight disservice this morning when I wrote that "they still won't explain why the Republicans' proposed tax hike is actually a tax cut." They do, actually, if somewhat obliquely, in a separate story in today's Post: "Throughout most of the supercommittee talks, Democrats had agreed to measure any proposed reductions in the deficit based on current tax levels. A senior Democratic aide said they had also explicitly offered to permanently extend all the Bush tax cuts.
The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman finally come clean. "If the congressional 'supercommittee' cannot agree on a plan to tame the federal debt by next week’s deadline, as now appears likely," they write, "here’s what will happen: nothing." They still won't explain why the Republicans' proposed tax hike is actually a tax cut, and the story quotes Sen. Max Baucus, D.-Montana, at length about what a tragedy it is that Democrats are unwilling to capitulate, er, I mean compromise. They also quote Sen.
The only thing that's alarming about the super committee's struggle to reach a deal on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction is the eagerness of reporters and Washington chin-pullers to be alarmed. What exactly will happen if Thanksgiving comes and no deal is reached? "If the panel falls short," Robert Pear explains in the Nov. 14 New York Times, "a series of automatic cuts, split evenly between military and civilian programs, would take effect, starting in 2013." This might be cause for alarm if the current month were Nov.
One of the biggest problems of reporting on our dysfunctional politics has been the reflexive tendency in “mainstream” media to balance, via what is increasingly false equivalence. A glaring example was a front-page, above-the-fold story in Saturday’s Washington Post by Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, titled (in the print edition, though not on the web), “Gloom Grows as Congress Feuds.” The story was about the looming showdown, and possible government shutdown, over disaster relief funding.
Congress wants to focus on jobs. Hooray! And that means focusing even harder on deficit reduction. Hooo--wait, what? The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery explains in her article about the ongoing, bipartisan talks over the debt ceiling: “The news on the economy and on the jobs front of the last several days, I think, underscores the importance of this meeting we just came out of,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said after emerging from the talks at the U.S. Capitol.
Tom Coburn, one of six Senators working on a bipartisan agreement, split off yesterday. My immediate reaction was that the deal is now dead. But I'm not so sure. Philip Rucker and Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post report that Coburn had begun abandoning his previously negotiated positions: Those close to the talks said trouble has been brewing for weeks. Earlier this month, the group appeared to be tantalizingly close to an agreement.