No one is completely in the right in the Washington-wide temper tantrum over extending the payroll-tax holiday. I don’t understand how Senate Republicans — who voted in large numbers for a two-month extension of the holiday — could have been so far out of step with House Republicans who insist on the year-long extension they’ve already passed.
That said, I have a hard time understanding the sudden conventional wisdom that public opinion about the situation will favor:
a) Senate Democrats, who want to enact a two-month extension offset by a tax on middle-class mortgagees and then spend even more time early next year arguing about the very same issue rather than moving on to other issues — rather than enacting a one-year extension offset by the exact same tax on middle-class mortgagees as well as a reduction in welfare and entitlement benefits for wealthy Americans and illegal immigrants, a pay freeze for federal workers, the auctioning of some wireless spectrum, and a few smaller items;
b) President Obama, who has repeatedly said he wants a full-year extension of the payroll-tax holiday but who, rather than castigating the Senate for passing only a two-month extension, instead is being nakedly partisan in castigating the House for sticking to its year-long extension.
Other than the length of the extension, there is very little substantive difference between the two bills except for the offsets, which is natural given that a year-long extension requires more offsets than a two-month extension. And there is very little in the House’s list of offsets that could be considered widely controversial.
And then there’s the fact that neutral experts say a two-month extension would be a nightmare for smaller firms to implement.
We’re long since past debating the actual merits of extending the tax holiday. As I said at the outset, no one in this kerfuffle comes out looking good. But does it really make sense to believe that the group that passed a short-term, unworkable bill, and the president who supported that about-face, are going to benefit from it, at the expense of the group that passed the longer-term, more practical bill? Obama and the Democrats made that bet during the debt-ceiling debate last summer. Instead, all they did was see their public approval sink alongside that of the Republicans.
I think most Americans will join me in asking that the same, big, fat lump of coal be dumped in all their stockings.
– By Kyle Wingfield