Oh, Congress

Published 12:06 am Friday, December 23, 2011

If you’ve ever wondered whether some members of Congress would drive the U.S. economy off a cliff for political gain, look no further than the debate over extending the payroll tax cut.

Did we say debate? We meant stalemate.

In an 89-10 vote, the Senate already had approved a two-month extension of the tax cut.

But, spurred by tea-partying, obstructionist Republicans, the House voted 229-193 against the Senate plan, leaving the tax cut in limbo.

Here’s irony for you: people elected on an anti-tax platform blocking the extension of a tax cut.

And here’s the rub: economists warn that failure to extend this tax cut could impede the economic recovery.

“The tax cut, which took effect this year, benefits 160 million Americans — $1,000 a year, or nearly $20 a week, for someone making $50,000, as much as $4,272 or $82 a week for a household with two high-paid workers,” The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

That’s real money for people in the affected income-tax brackets. Come to think of it, that’s real money for just about anyone except the richest of the rich.

Congress shouldn’t forget that 2012 is an election year and that there are few more fundamental pocketbook issues than taxes.

So, as 2011 winds down, the clock goes on ticking — on the tax cut and on somebody’s political future.

Maybe it’s time for a few new drivers because this country is perilously close to the guardrail, and that cliff is steep.