Walking down the Line
The deal Obama and Republicans have struck also includes a one-year cut in payroll taxes, from 6.2% to 4.2%. The tax is applied to a worker's first $106,800 of wages. If implemented, it would mean that someone earning $50,000 a year would pay $1,000 less in Social Security contributions next year. Someone earning $100,000 would pay $2,000 less. The payroll tax rate would go back up to 6.2% in 2012.
The estate tax -- currently scheduled to return in 2011 to a top rate of 55% along with a $1 million exemption -- would instead come back with a lower top rate of 35% along with a $5 million exemption.
Agreeing to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans represented a major concession for Obama. In a concession to Democrats, Republican negotiators agreed to leave in place for 13 months the option to file for extended federal unemployment benefits. That will not, however, affect how long someone can collect unemployment benefits -- the maximum will remain 99 weeks in states hardest hit by job loss.
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Extending the Bush-era tax cuts for two years would cost $458 billion, the Treasury Department has estimated -- $383 billion for lower and middle income Americans plus $75 billion for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making $250,000 or more. The White House has estimated that lowering the payroll tax would cost $120 billion. Extending unemployment benefits for 13 months comes with a $62 billion price tag, according to CNN estimates.
Lowering the top estate tax rate to 35% -- combined with the $5 million exemption -- costs $88 billion over two years, according to the Tax Policy Center.
To make this clear, the continued tax cuts for everyone raises the deficit. And additional unemployment and stimulative tax credits raises the deficit.
So after all the sturm und drang about fiscal responsibility, the R's go along with the program because it keeps taxes lower on their base. Only reason, to pander to the wealthy.
Tea-party folks, here's what's coming down the line: Republican interests are always aligned with the wealthy.