While many Americans were worried in recent days that their payroll taxes would go up soon because of a congressional stalemate, those likely fretting the most were those not even on any payroll.
Without Congress agreeing to extend unemployment benefits, which was part of the payroll tax package, jobless extensions would have ended after the first week of January for millions around the nation, including 100,000 people in California. Without an agreement, countless others would have been not allowed to apply for unemployment extensions.
Thankfully, on Friday members of Congress finally agreed to a two-month compromise extension on the payroll tax and unemployment benefits, a pact quickly signed by President Obama. That means at least slightly brighter holidays for millions and millions of Americans.
But it is political brinksmanship such as this, with little regard for the finances and feelings of the American people, that has resulted in a congressional approval rating of 11 percent … and dropping.
Neither major political party is innocent in this vicious partisanship tearing at the core of the nation. Each party is looking for every opportunity to make the other side look bad, but the consistent victims of such political war games are the American people.
While it is wonderful that the extension was approved in the nick of time, it is only a two-month extension. That means the political bickering and brinksmanship over extending the payroll tax reduction and unemployment benefits for the rest of the year probably is going to be on the backburner for only a short time before boiling over again.
For a family with an income of $50,000, the payroll tax extension means about $20 a week in savings. That adds up to a lot of money for families over a month or a year, money that people need to know whether they will have for the year or not. Unemployed people also need some certainty about their benefits.
We are hopeful members of Congress learned after this latest bout of political trench warfare that the American people are weary of being trifled with. We are not, however, optimistic.
We hope Congress has learned.
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