Stop Politicizing Payroll Taxes

January 31, 2012

Americans voted for hope and change in 2008 because they were tired of Washington’s reckless and cynical political motives.  But as President Obama ramps up his reelection effort, it is clear he plans to embrace the same recklessness and cynicism he campaigned against just four years ago. 

Devoid of any fruitful ideas to save our nation, the Obama administration will continue to politicize important issues in an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of voters.

Recall the blatant political maneuvering by the Obama White House during the December payroll tax debate. 

President Obama declared it was imperative to have a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut and warned “Congress cannot and should not leave for vacation until they have made sure that that tax increase doesn't happen.”

However, as the Christmas holiday approached, the President and Senate Democrats suddenly abandoned a long-term extension in favor of a temporary, two-month reprieve. 

When House leaders balked, the President immediately accused Republicans of opposing tax cuts benefiting middle-income earners when, in fact, they were busy working on a bipartisan deal to extend the tax holiday past the election. In the end, the President’s quick maneuver and shameless class warfare paid political dividends.

Congress will soon face the same question on the payroll tax cut.  President Obama’s intentions are clear: use the payroll tax issue to demagogue conservatives and distract the American people from the real issues facing our country. 

If he were running for Political Strategist in Chief, this would demonstrate his bona fides.  Obscuring his own failures by blaming others is, unfortunately, his only hope at being reelected as Commander in Chief.  That, of course, does not mean it is the best thing for America.

To combat the President's shrewd political scheme and give Americans some level of economic certainty, Republicans in the House and the Senate must move swiftly to enact a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut. 

As conservatives, we believe every American is entitled to keep more of their own money.  They have earned it, not Washington, and a tax hike on hard working Americans is bad policy, bad politics and bad economics - especially at a time when so many are hurting.

President Obama and his big government allies are content to play the blame game in search of another four-year term.  Conservatives cannot compete with that demagoguery, nor should we.

Instead, we should get the payroll tax issue off the table – for at least this year, if not longer – and move forward with comprehensive tax reform.  Not only is this the hard work the American people expect from Congress, it is also what is right for our economy.  Reforms to both the personal and corporate tax codes, such as lowering rates and eliminating deductions, will jumpstart our economy.

It’s time for conservatives in Congress to stop simply talking about comprehensive tax reform, and actually lay out their vision. Any tax reform bill should remove loopholes, deductions and subsidies, and then lower tax rates to make sure any change is revenue neutral. This approach will save taxpayers billions of dollars a year without decimating the country by imposing massive tax hikes.

Conservatives have been on the forefront of the tax issue for decades, now is the time to lay out a comprehensive plan and begin the process of reforming our tax code, making it more simple and fair, and allowing Americans to keep more of their own money.

There is one additional benefit of moving beyond the payroll tax debate:  Heading into a presidential election, it would paint a stark contrast between our vision for America, and the vision embraced by President Obama. 

We believe in finding free-market, pro-growth solutions to America's economic challenges, while the President prefers to play politics with the issues to benefit his re-election.  Republicans should not play into the President's cynical political strategy and, instead, show Americans that good policy is also good politics. 

Mike Lee is a U.S. Senator from Utah; Mike Needham is CEO of Heritage Action for America.