Political Animal


August 16, 2011 1:25 PM Gingrich forgets GOP line on payroll taxes

By Steve Benen

As far as GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is concerned, congressional Republicans are probably going to have to give in and extend President Obama’s payroll tax break.

“I think it’s very hard not to keep the payroll tax cut in this economy,” Gingrich said in a presentation at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “I don’t know what Republicans are going to say but I think it’s very hard to say ‘no.’ We’re going to end up in a position where we’re gonna raise taxes on the lowest income Americans the day they go to work and make life harder for small businesses.”

He’s referring to a stimulative, two percent payroll tax holiday President Obama negotiated when he agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts in December. It’s set to expire at the end of the year, and it’s one of the economic growth proposals President Obama has called on Congress to pass when they return from August recess.

“I do think that it’s a serious challenge to not extend it,” Gingrich added.

Quick follow-up question for Newt: have you actually met any congressional Republicans lately?

Gingrich appears to be analyzing this situation in terms of what makes sense, and in general, that’s a perspective I enjoy. But some GOP leaders have already announced their opposition to Obama’s request for an extension of the tax break.

Republicans are going to find “it’s very hard to say ‘no’”? Actually, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), just last week, found it very easy to say no, telling Fox News a payroll tax cut extension “would simply exacerbate our debt problems.” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Wis.) has said of the idea, “I’m not in favor of that. I don’t think that’s a good idea.” A month ago, during the debt-ceiling negotiations, President Obama tried to incorporate the payroll break into the deal, and GOP leaders rejected it then, too.

Keep in mind, the payroll tax break has been, traditionally, a Republican idea. But now that President Obama is championing the idea, the same GOP officials who pushed for this tax cut are now opposed to their own measure.

As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently argued, “If they oppose even something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they’re just opposing anything that helps create jobs. It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.”

This is the whole point of the “sabotage” question. The argument isn’t that Republicans have conservative ideas about helping the economy. Questioning their motivations on this alone would be foolish. The point, rather, is that Republicans have begun rejecting their own ideas about helping the economy.

In the larger context, it’s possible House Republican leaders, in their heart of hearts, actually support an extension of the payroll tax cut, but just aren’t willing to say so. Why not? Because then they lose leverage — GOP officials know the White House wants this, and if they simply agree to pass the measure, they won’t get anything extra out of the deal.

It’s likely, then, that congressional Republicans will simply hold the payroll tax cut hostage, and demand other goodies from Democrats in exchange for doing what the GOP wants to do anyway. If Dems give in, Republicans get more of what they want. If Dems don’t, Republicans will blame Dems for raising middle-class taxes, even if it’s obviously the GOP’s fault.

And what kind of ransom would Republicans expect for this? Apparently, they want a tax break for repatriating overseas corporate funds, which didn’t work when it was tried seven years ago, which is fundamentally regressive, and which would worsen the deficit the GOP pretends to care about.

The 2010 midterms continue to look like the biggest mistake Americans have made in a long while.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on August 16, 2011 1:32 PM:

    Poor Newt!

    He was the key man in "The Gingrich Revolution."

    Now he's Robespierre, and the new revolting revolution are sharpening their guillotines.

  • PTate in MN on August 16, 2011 1:32 PM:

    Huh? Gingrich is still running for the GOP nomination?

  • Burr Deming on August 16, 2011 1:37 PM:

    I love Newt. I have ever since he got defanged for telling the truth about the Ryan plan to kill Medicare.

    How can you NOT love a candidate who will put himself through this?

  • Patriot on August 16, 2011 1:39 PM:

    It's interesting that we "can't afford" tax cuts for working Americans, but tax cuts for the wealthiest are vital to the economy. The next time a GOPer calls a rich person a "job creator" somebody needs to point out that it's short hand for "our betters."

  • Live Free or Die on August 16, 2011 1:39 PM:

    Who? I forgot that he was in the race.

  • gnadalf on August 16, 2011 1:42 PM:

    Steve I'm curious as to why you keep making reference to the republicans doing anything other than sabotage to the economy for political gain. At this point in time it has to be painfully obvious that the republicans don't give a rats ass about the american people, only their prospects to position to win election.

  • Hedda Peraz on August 16, 2011 1:55 PM:

    Oh, pity the whining un and under employed! Food Stamps! WICS! Food banks!

    Why, the folks in North Korea survive quite nicely on tree bark and grass. Have you been to a national forest lately? A veritable banquet awaits. . .

  • Albert on August 16, 2011 1:56 PM:

    Ryan said that the tax cut would "exacerbate our debt problems?" But don't take cuts lead to increased revenue and thus pay for themselves? And don't tax increases kill jobs? As such, we will both harm job creation and increase the deficit by not extending the payroll tax cut, at least if we apply the past explanations given by Ryan to this situation.

  • T2 on August 16, 2011 2:14 PM:

    rumors today are hinting that Paul Ryan may be thinking of a 2012 Pres run....now, if there was one wish I could have it would be a televised national debate with Rick Perry vs. Paul Ryan. That would be excellent.

  • Andy Olsen on August 16, 2011 2:17 PM:

    David Camp is from Michigan, the other mitt-shaped midwestern state.

  • ckelly on August 16, 2011 2:26 PM:

    It almost makes you wonder if they aren't trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.


  • sick-n-effn-tired. on August 16, 2011 2:55 PM:

    I wish Obama would do the Anti George Costanza from the episode where he does everything against type and it works out perfectly. Since they are proving it every day. Cut Taxes? Obama's for it? We're against it. More troops in Afghanistan ? We're against it bring them all home. You get the idea.
    It really is through the looking glass

  • Lance on August 16, 2011 3:11 PM:

    "House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), just last week, found it very easy to say no, telling Fox News a payroll tax cut extension “would simply exacerbate our debt problems.” "

    Can we remind him of this when the Bush/Obama tax rates expire in 2013?

  • Larry on August 16, 2011 5:00 PM:

    "The 2010 midterms continue to look like the biggest mistake Americans have made in a long while."

    It's going to have to be shown to be a lot worse before it beats re-electing George Bush.

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