There’s a showdown brewing on Capitol Hill over President Obama’s much-touted, but puny and economically insignificant, “payroll tax cut.” It is more properly described as an early payout of Social Security money for vote-buying purposes, since it comes out of Social Security funding. If Social Security is funded through “contributions,” which the government has a sacred obligation to return after retirement, then how can a reduction in Social Security payments possibly be a “tax cut?”
Obama makes a very big deal about this “tax cut.” He’s mentioned it in virtually every speech he has given for the past year. Do you remember when a huge production was made out of Obama’s sixteenth “pivot to job creation” last summer? It was a media event hyped to the heavens. It turned out to consist of precisely three concrete proposals, all of which are things Obama has already been doing throughout his long years of total economic failure: increased infrastructure spending, more unemployment benefits, and extending his payroll tax cut.
The President has repeatedly stressed the absolute urgency of extending his tax cut, explaining that its impending expiration would be an unacceptable burden on the Little People. It is the only morally and fiscally acceptable tax cut to the President, who otherwise wishes to raise taxes into the stratosphere, and relentlessly demonizes all other efforts at relief as “tax cuts for the rich.” In a moment of stammering desperation, he even went as far as declaring that all other tax cuts kill jobs.
Did you remember all of that before I reminded you? Because President Obama is banking very heavily that you’ve forgotten it, along with all the other recent and distant history he needs you to forget.
The congressional showdown currently in progress has House Republicans expressing a willingness to extend Obama’s little Social Security tax cut, which is due to expire at the end of the year, provided the president who speaks so often of “compromise” offers a few concessions. The big one is that Obama must drop his opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Obama and the Democrats are absolutely and completely intransigent about their desire to keep that pipeline from construction, refusing to budge an inch, as Fox News reported today:
The provision pertaining to the Keystone pipeline helped sweeten the deal for House conservatives skeptical of a payroll tax extension.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., told Fox News that a number of Republicans who were on the fence said they would vote for the bill if it includes the Keystone pipeline provision.
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday he’s confident Republicans are ready to move on the proposal.
But Obama explicitly has said he will reject any effort to tie the Keystone pipeline construction to the tax extension. His allies echoed that message Friday.
“It’s a non-starter,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
Her top deputy, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., urged Republicans to “reconsider” the Keystone language.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney warned Republicans not to include “extraneous attachments” in the bill.
“Whatever happened to Republicans being for tax cuts?” Carney asked. “Is it because this one goes to 160 million Americans, middle-class working Americans, that they’re ambivalent or they’re willing to oppose it if they don’t get some political scalp? Is it because President Obama supports it, or Democrats support it?”
(Emphases mine.) As an aside, if you’re a Democrat, does it bother you that your Party leadership casually assumes you’re a complete imbecile? This Party’s stated goal is massive tax increases. They harangue Republicans endlessly about their supposedly unreasonable fixation on tax cuts. Longtime Representative Barney Frank says he is retiring, in part, because he can’t bring himself to serve in a House that won’t raise taxes. And yet the White House spokesman thinks he’s scoring some kind of debate point with neener-neener taunts about Republican willingness to let a tax cut expire? Seriously, people, the GOP treats its voters badly too, but the pure, unrelenting contempt of Democrats for their supporters’ intelligence is breathtaking.
The other bedrock Democrat assumption is that they’ve got the media in their pocket. This strategy would never work otherwise. The Democrats are banking on a narrative of “Republicans want oil so much they’ll throw the sacred tax cut away,” not the equally valid narrative of “Democrats oppose energy independence so passionately they’re willing to throw the sacred tax cut away.”
But this is Obama’s vaunted tax cut, centerpiece of his “jobs strategy.” Furthermore, the Keystone XL pipeline would create a huge number of jobs. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) layid out the stakes in an op-ed for the Aurora Sentinel:
In early November, the Obama administration announced that it would delay action on the pipeline until 2012 despite an extensive environmental impact statement (EIS) released by the U.S. Department of State in August. The EIS found that the pipeline project posed “no significant impacts to most resources” along its proposed path.
The project delay was seemingly made by Obama for political reasons despite the fact that millions of Americans are looking for work. In addition to the estimated 20,000 short-term construction jobs created by the Keystone project, it is has been projected that ten times as many permanent jobs could be created by the project in the long run.
The Keystone XL project is a high-tech petroleum pipeline that would transport crude oil derived from the Athabasca Oil Sands in western Canada nearly 1,700 miles to processing facilities throughout the United States. Despite the positive EIS findings and the fact the project leaders have already agreed to meet or exceed 57 safety standards set by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the permit has still been delayed.
Quibble with Coffman’s numbers if you must, but clearly a lot of jobs are on the line here. Doesn’t Obama keep saying that “infrastructure” construction is the wellspring of healthy job creation? How could that be true of a road or bridge, but not a massive oil pipeline?
As a matter of simple logic, Obama’s year-end political strategy reveals, once again, that all this “pivot to job creation” stuff is a ridiculous fiction. There are, very obviously, numerous considerations he places above job creation. However, he does not hold press conferences to announce that he’s making job creation a “high” priority… right after he makes sure America’s oil supply is kept low, to drive up energy prices on behalf of his top contributors in the “green energy” market, and please his radical environmentalist allies.
Now he’s not only thwarting the direct creation of hundreds of thousands of Keystone XL jobs, but also jeopardizing one of the only three ideas he has ever advanced for job creation, his payroll tax cut. He’s not just bagaining or raising concerns – he’s declaring complete, unreasoning intransigence. And Pivot to Job Creation #16 began only three months ago!