Don’t let anyone fool you: the deal Republican negotiators cut with Democrats on the payroll tax, doc fix, and unemployment insurance contains a huge, though far from perfect, win for conservatives on the Hill. Let's look at the details:
First, Congress has just agreed to cut taxes for all Americans, even the very wealthy, without offsetting the revenue loss with tax hikes elsewhere. For the next 10 months, the employee side of the Social Security tax will stay at 4.2 percent, not rise to 6.2 percent. Anytime Americans are allowed to keep more of their money, it is a victory for freedom. Remember, the Democrats opening position in this negotiation was to “pay for” this almost $100 billion tax cut by raising taxes on the rich. That didn’t happen.
Second, the deal raises Medicare reimbursement payments, thus averting an almost 30 percent pay-cut to doctors who see Medicare patients. But this spending was already in the Ryan Budget House Republicans passed last spring. And the $25 billion needed to pay for this “doc fix” came from spending cuts elsewhere in the budget, including from Obamacare implementation funds.
Third, while the nearly $30 billion for another round of unemployment compensation payments is definitely a Democratic priority, Republicans did manage to offset that spending, again, with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. This time from a requirement that federal workers contribute more to their pension plans.
No, the payroll tax cut is not ideal policy. It is just a temporary tax cut that will do nothing to stimulate the economy. But it keeps more money away from Washington's big spenders, clears the way a bit for making the tax cut permanent in the future, and undermines the fiction that is the Social Security trust fund.
Obama: President Obama’s job approval rating has reached 50 percent in the CBS/New York Times poll. The percentage of people who say they believed the economic outlook is improving is now greater, by double digits, than the percentage of those who say they believed it is getting worse.
GOP Field: For the first time in PPP‘s polling, someone other than Mitt Romney is doing best in a head-to-head match-up against Obama. Rick Santorum trails Obama 49 percent to 44 percent, while Romney trails Obama 49 percent to 42 percent.
Ohio: Rick Santorum leads Mitt Romney, 36 percent to 29 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll of Ohio.
Gingrich: The Wall Street Journal reports that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is considering giving millions more to Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC for the sole purpose of drawing votes away from Rick Santorum, who Adelson believes is less electable than Mitt Romney.
Around the Bigs
The Washington Post, Venture capitalists play key role in Obama’s Energy Department: The Obama Energy Department gave $3.9 billion in taxpayer money to 21 companies backed by firms connected to five e Obama administration staffers and advisers.
The Wall Street Journal, Obama Seeks New Taxes on Rich: President Obama’s budget proposes raising $1.7 trillion in taxes over 10 years largely by ending Bush-era tax cuts for families who earn more than $250,000, restoring the estate tax to its 2009 level and limiting subsidies for oil and gas companies.
The Hill, Facing objections from left and right, Boehner splits up transportation bill: Facing opposition from Republicans, Speaker John Boehner will break up the transportation bill into three parts this week. The energy and pension reform portions are expected to pass on a party-line vote. The fate of the underlying transportation spending is in doubt.
Pew, Public Divided Over Birth Control Insurance Mandate: According to Pew, 48 percent of Americans believe religious institutions should be given an exemption from federal mandates that force employers to pay for contraception, 44 percent say they should be required to pay like all other employers.
CBS News, Most back mandating contraception coverage: A CBS News/New York Times poll shows that 61 percent of Americans believe religious employers should be required to cover contraception, only 32 percent said they shouldn’t.
CBS News, Chicago Called Most Corrupt City In Nation: According to a new University of Illinois study, Chicago is the most corrupt city in the country.
The Washington Post, Greece, even with bailout help, faces massive debt: Europe’s Greece bailout would pump $170 billion into the country over the next three years and slice the value of the Greek bonds held by private investors by more than half. But if Greece misses its economic growth targets by even a little, they would immediately face default again.
RedState‘s Russ Vought explains why every House conservative should oppose the highway bill.
Cato‘s Michael Cannon catches HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitting that she does not have enough money to create Obamacare exchanges in the states.
AEI‘s James Pethokoukis notes that once state and local spending, as well as private health insurance mandates are factored in, total government spending as a percentage of GDP is almost as high in the United States as it is in Europe.
Taking Points Memo Brian Beutler explains why it is totally acceptable for Democrats to ignore the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act.
ThinkProgress reports that global warming activists delivered 800,000 messages opposing the Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Senate yesterday.
Salon‘s Steve Kornacki explains why nobody is still taking Rick Santorum seriously.