Home > Government & Politics > The Price of Political Posturing

The Price of Political Posturing

The second week of the 111th Congress’ lame-duck session is nearly over.  With less than three weeks to go before the session adjourns for the holidays, Congress has still not acted on two important matters – passing the 2011 budget and an extension of lower tax rates.

Congress needs to pass the 13 Appropriations Bills that make up the federal budget.  It doesn’t need to act to extend the tax rates, but the potential economic and political ramifications of increasing taxes on all Americans has dominated the attention of Congress.

The mid-term elections have been over for more than a month, and the lame-duck session started three weeks ago, yet little progress has been made.  Extending the tax rates for the highest taxpayers is the stumbling block.

Generally speaking, President Obama and many Democrats support an extension of the lower rates for everyone except for the individuals making in excess of $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000.  The Republicans advocate an extension of the tax rates for everyone.  Given the makeup of the Senate, the Democrats need at least 2 Republican Senators to vote with them, but it’s doubtful that this will happen.  Most people believe a compromise bill will pass providing for a temporary extension of the rates for everyone.

Despite this general expectation, the House passed a bill yesterday raising the rates on the higher income taxpayers.  The Senate could take up the bill later today or tomorrow.  No one expects the bill to pass.  Therefore, these votes are largely symbolic.  In essence, both parties are pandering to their supporters.  It’s great political posturing, but bad for the overall welfare of the country.

Payroll companies have expressed concerns regarding their ability to properly prepare paychecks at the beginning of 2011.  It’s also anticipated that the tax legislation will include the extension of certain provisions that affect 2010 tax returns.  Therefore, the Commissioner of the IRS, Douglas Shulman, announced earlier this week that the IRS may not be able to program its computers in time to process returns for the changes that are likely to happen.

These are practical concerns with real money implications for the government, individuals and business.  Despite these apprehensions, Congress continues to plod along as if time doesn’t matter.  They are clearly more interested in political posturing and scoring political points, than actually coming up with a solution.  Is it any wonder that Congress has such abysmal approval ratings?

If your first paychecks of 2011 are messed up, or your 2010 tax refund is delayed because the IRS can’t properly process your 2010 tax return, you’ll know why.  Congressional leaders believed meaningless, symbolic votes were worth the price of delay.

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