Opinion

Pass the payroll tax cut, now

Photo of Michael Needham
Michael Needham
CEO, Heritage Action for America
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      Michael Needham

      Michael A. Needham is Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action
      for America, a grassroots advocacy organization created in April
      2010 by The Heritage Foundation, America’s largest and most
      influential conservative think tank. With 661,000 active members,
      Heritage Action will pressure members of Congress on behalf of
      the mission of The Heritage Foundation to build an America where
      freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.

      Prior to becoming CEO of Heritage Action, Needham worked on
      former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential
      campaign as Special Assistant to Policy Director William E. Simon.
      In this capacity, he helped oversee all aspects of policy development
      on the campaign including speech writing, debate preparation, and production of policy
      white papers. Needham served as the policy liaison to the morning communications meeting
      and had responsibility for the campaign’s health care, immigration and homeland security
      policies.

      Prior to joining the Giuliani campaign, Needham was director of The Asian Studies Center
      at the Heritage Foundation where he oversaw the think tank’s research and analysis of the
      United States’ bilateral security, economic and political relationships with Asia. Before
      running the ASC, he served as Chief of Staff of The Heritage Foundation, Washington’s
      largest and most influential conservative public policy organization.

      Needham is a native New Yorker and holds a MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of
      Business and a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from Williams College.

Washington is broken, but it is not because of a lack of ideas. Rather, it is because some prefer obstruction and demagoguery over substance and solutions.

Such is the case with the payroll tax cut.

Sensing a partisan political advantage, President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have sought to portray conservatives and Republicans as wanting to raise taxes on hard-working Americans. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, it is their policies — not ours — which will lead to massive tax increases on hard-working Americans.

The Democrats’ political strategy is totally divorced from any single policy objective or long-term strategic policy goal. Instead, it is a plan to divide and demagogue the opposition. It is designed to obscure the Democrats’ policy failures — stubbornly high unemployment, soaring gas prices, continued foreclosures, rising health care costs and yet another trillion-dollar deficit.

Yesterday, House Republican leaders wisely decided it was time to turn the tables. Instead of allowing an extension of the payroll tax cut to languish in a conference committee infested with obstinate Democrats who are demanding job-destroying tax hikes as a “pay for,” they decided to bring forward a clean extension that will run for the remainder of the year.

While Heritage Action has not been shy in our disagreements with House leaders on certain issues, we can say unequivocally that this is the right move. Democrats on the conference committee were not genuine negotiating partners. They simply desired bi-monthly fights on the tax cut from now until the elections.

Doing this kabuki dance every two months is bad politics and absolutely terrible policy.

To be clear, conservatives understand the extension of the payroll tax cut is not an effective stimulus. If stimulus is the goal, we should focus on tax cuts that actually create growth, things like permanent reductions in rates or ending double taxation.

That said, a 10-month extension of the payroll tax cut is decent policy, unpinned by conservative principles. And it will have the additional benefit of allowing conservatives to refocus the conversation. The American people deserve a real debate about the future of our country, and that cannot happen when President Obama’s demagogue and denial machine is running at full speed.