The Cato Institute’s Daniel J. Mitchell pretty much summed up my initial take on Le Grande Compromise between Obama and the Republicans on tax rates and unemployment benefits:
Compared to ideal policy, the deal announced last night between congressional Republicans and President Obama is terrible.
Compared to what I expected to happen, the deal announced last night is pretty good.
Point of order – there currently is no guarantee that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who weren’t exactly involved in the negotiations, are going to let this pass. I believe the applicable term when (I don’t believe it’s a matter of “if) this falls apart and all of the Clinton tax rates return full-force will be “poison pill”. Teh Won will bite his lower lip and whimper out, “I never tried so hard for anything as a middle-class tax cut” (if that sounds familiar, it should – that was what the last Democrat President said).
Even if this is a genuine and doable compromise, it’s essentially a punt into 2012 for everything except the reinstated death tax (at 35% with the first $3.5 million exempt for 2 years, compared to the previously-imminent (and now merely delayed until after 2012) 41%/$1 million exempt to 55%-beyond-$3 million), another 13 months of extended unemployment benefits (it’s still at the 99-week limit instead of 26 weeks), and the 1-year 16% reduction in the FICA tax (a reduction of the employee portion from 6.2% to 4.2%, in exchange for allowing the Make Work Pay tax credit). For the sake of argument, let’s look at the three:
- The Death Tax returns - The number one killer of family businesses is back. Let me put it this way – that money was already taxed once (or in the case of unrealized capital gains, will be taxed when said gain is realized) – the government has no right to a second taxation that is at a higher marginal rate than the first taxation just because one died.
- Extending unemployment benefits - Did the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy put you out of work? No problem – your 2011 can be as work-free as 2010 was. We’ll just borrow from the Red Chinese so you don’t have to worry about getting a job until 2012.
- The 1-year FICA tax reduction - This is actually better than the old Subsidize Low-Paying Jobs welfare plan. If you work, you’ll get 2% more on your paycheck. So what if SocSecurity runs a cash deficit again? It was going to be in the red anyway (seriously, this has a less-than-6-month effect on the SocSecurity fund-exhaustion dates).