Will the Payroll Tax Cut be Extended Through the End of 2012?

Steve Benen doesn’t think there’s a very good chance that the payroll tax cut will be extended through the end of 2012:

Enjoy the payroll tax break while it lasts, by Steve Benen: Last week, after a needlessly-contentious process, Congress approved a two-month extension of the payroll tax break. As part of the agreement, a conference committee will try to come up with an agreement to extend the cut through the end of 2012.

I’ve been rather pessimistic about the likelihood of success, and yesterday, the odds got worse.

The Senate Republican leader announced Friday that he had chosen three of his colleagues to try to thrash out a bipartisan deal on payroll taxes, unemployment benefits and Medicare.

The three Republican senators will join four Democratic senators and 13 House members on a conference committee… The newly named Republican conferees are Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona, Michael D. Crapo of Idaho and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

These … are three senators you’d appoint to a conference committee if you want to be destructive.

Kyl, for example, was instrumental in sabotaging the super-committee process… Crapo and Barrasso, meanwhile, are two far-right senators who’ve never demonstrated any willingness to accept concessions on anything.

What’s more, note that the House GOP leadership has already announced its conferees, most of whom have already said they don’t want a payroll-cut extension no matter what concessions Democrats are willing to make…

What about the risk of being blamed? Remember,… the process itself offers cover. Instead of last week, when House Republicans became the clear villains,… the party will find it easier to spread the blame around.

“It’s not our fault,” GOP leaders will say. “We tried to work with Democrats on a deal, but one didn’t come together. Oh well.”… and the media would feel obligated to say “both sides” failed to reach an agreement.

And even if the payroll tax cut is extended, it’s likely that Republicans will demand — and get — large concessions in return, e.g. permanent reductions in spending on social insurance programs.

About Mark Thoma 243 Articles

Affiliation: University of Oregon

Mark Thoma is a member of the Economics Department at the University of Oregon. He joined the UO faculty in 1987 and served as head of the Economics Department for five years. His research examines the effects that changes in monetary policy have on inflation, output, unemployment, interest rates and other macroeconomic variables with a focus on asymmetries in the response of these variables to policy changes, and on changes in the relationship between policy and the economy over time. He has also conducted research in other areas such as the relationship between the political party in power, and macroeconomic outcomes and using macroeconomic tools to predict transportation flows. He received his doctorate from Washington State University.

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