Right problem, wrong tax

Payroll tax cut unfairly cuts into safety net of seniors

Washington is tinkering with your paycheck again, which is good and bad.

The good news is that, in supporting an extension of the current payroll tax cut, Democrats in Washington will be admitting that letting people keep more of the money they earn is actually a good thing for the country.

Why they don’t apply that principle more broadly, and cut other taxes too, is beyond our ability to comprehend.

In addition, the good news is that the current payroll tax cut – about $20 a week for the average worker, according to someone who apparently knows those things – will, indeed, leave a modest amount of money in your wallet.

The only problem – and it’s a huge one – is that they’re cutting precisely the wrong tax.

Given an endless array of taxes and fees our leaders could be cutting to stimulate the economy, Congress is choosing to cut one of the most worthy and important taxes there is: the payroll tax, which weaves the Social Security retirement safety net!

It’s the ultimate in short-term political gain for today’s politicians and long-term pain for tomorrow’s taxpayers. The less we put away now, the more our children and grandchildren will have to cough up when we’re living off of them.

And don’t fool yourself: We will be living off them. Social Security isn’t a nest egg where your money is being stored for later use for your golden years; payroll taxes being collected today are supporting retirees today. Tomorrow’s taxpayers, likewise, will be supporting us. And they’ll be working harder to do it, too: The ratio of workers to retirees continues to dwindle, so fewer workers will be supporting more retirees.

Of course, irresponsibility is nothing new for Congress: It’s been raiding the Social Security fund for decades – in effect blowing our retirement cash on current day-to-day needs. (And even that hasn’t been enough, as the government continues to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends!) The reason is to make themselves look good for the same voters they’re ripping off: By siphoning off our retirement funds – which would be a federal crime if done by anyone else – the politicians in Congress help mask how much they’re really spending and the deleterious effect on the economy.

So, while the payroll tax feels good and makes the profligates look great, you could hardly draw up a more imprudent tax cut.

This is the best they can do to put money in our hands? To take it from the safety net for senior citizens?

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