Litmus Test

NYT reports House GOP members likely to reject the Senate’s overwhelming support (89-10) for the short-term extension of the payroll tax cut and the extension of unemployment benefits.

The impasse began over the weekend when House Republicans said they would reject the Senate measure, which passed 89 to 10. It would, for two months, extend the payroll tax cut, continue unemployment benefits and prevent a cut in fees paid to doctors who accept Medicare, allowing lawmakers and the White House time to work out their differences on how to pay for a year-long extension.

Many rank and file Republicans have questioned the underlying concept of continuing the tax break — because the payroll tax reduction would reduce revenue to the Social Security trust fund, which would be replaced by payments from the Treasury. But House Republican leaders said on Monday that their objection was not to the tax cut itself, but to the temporary nature of the fix.

“We don’t need to be governing in two-month increments,” Representative Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican and majority leader, said on CNN. “People can’t live their lives like that.”

Now, policy questions aside, I’m just going to make a public opinion prediction: support for the House GOP is going to plummet towards the end of January, 2012, if this doesn’t pass.  People have adjusted their spending patterns now that they’ve gotten used to the payroll tax cut putting more cash in their bring-home paycheck.  Christmas spending plans are (unsurprisingly) therefore up 22% over last year.  People are down on the economy, but they’ve got extra money in their pocket and they’re spending it.

Or, worse, they’re charging up the ol’ Visa card and when they get their bill in early January they’re going to be shocked to find that (a) they spent so much and (b) their paycheck is lighter than it was all last year.  Never mind that the change isn’t huge, never mind that they really ought to have already know this, never mind that some people ought not to be very surprised to find that Unemployment check isn’t coming in mid-January.

I expect popular backlash.

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14 thoughts on “Litmus Test

  1. The gut tells me people are able to compartmentalize (to a limited extent) their votes for Congress from their votes for President, but *unable* to do this to separate the House and the Senate.  And I think the House Republican Caucus in counting on this.

    Due to state legislature control, the Republicans have a slight advantage going in 2012 from the census redistricting, and are defending far fewer seats in the Senate due to the makeup of the ’06 class.

    So a popular backlash still may work in the Republicans favor.

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    • Mebbe.  Koz will be happy that his Tea Party newbies are standing on principle, certainly.  Those who support cutting the size of government will be more than happy about this.

      Still, I’m putting my finski down on this being bad PR.

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      • Agreed.  In addition to everything that you have stated above, I am willing to bet there will be a small number of vocal conservative C’Critters and pundits who can’t help themselves and gloat over how awesome it its that they didn’t back down to the Dems and these soundbites will get a lot of play.

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      • I don’t think there’s very much traction in the payroll tax one way or the other, certainly less than the Demos think. I may be wrong. We’ll see.

        The one recent development I do think is important is that Newt seems to be slipping, in Iowa and nationally. If Iowa comes in Paul-Romney, in either order (with some dropoff to third place), I think this race might be over very early. Mitt (or Paut-Mitt again) finishes second. Everybody goes to Mitt, and South Carolina and everything after that becomes more or less irrelevant.

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          • The closer we get to the primaries, the more we’re forced to notice that it’s not “Generic Republican” running but “Actual Republican”.

            There’s also the issue that, for a long time now, “Actual Republican” after “Actual Republican” after “Actual Republican” has more in common with each other than they do with “Generic Republican”… and that will eventually result in “Generic Republican” changing in the minds of voters.

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          • It’s hard for me to see where the Demo traction comes in. A two-month cut in the payroll tax doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal.

            I think and hope we’re about ready to resume normal service in the Presidential race. The President’s poll numbers have been really bad for at least a year, and the Republicans have been okay. What’s more, I think the Demo’s look even worse when you look closer at what happened.

            The only good things to happen for the Demos poll number are occasional spasms of good luck. First, Giffords. Second, OBL. Third, the debt limit. Now the GOP primaries. The Demos have told us they’ll get elected on the strength of these things. I don’t buy it.

            The baseline scenario is that we’re living in an economy with high Demo unemployment and low Demo growth. The Demos are the cause of our economic problems and what’s worse for at least a year or so they haven’t even had anything interesting to say. Oh yeah, they hate Republicans, what else is new.

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  2. At least we have yet another contemporary reminder that for most people in the U.S. payroll taxes are a bigger factor than income (the revelation that 9-9-9 would’ve raised most people’s taxes being the first).

     

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  3. CNN reports the President’s popularity is going up, and the GOP’s is going down.

    According to the survey, 49% of Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing in the White House, up five points from last month, with 48% saying they disapprove, down six points from mid-November. The 49% approval rating is the president’s highest since May, when his number hit 54% thanks to a bounce following the killing of Osama bin Laden. Since then, in CNN polling, Obama’s approval rating has hovered in the mid-40s.

    “President Barack Obama’s approval rating appears to be fueled by dramatic gains among middle-income Americans,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “The data suggest that the debate over the payroll tax is helping Obama’s efforts to portray himself as the defender of the middle class.”

    Obama’s gains have come at the expense of the Republicans in Congress and the GOP in general. By a 50% to 31% margin, people questioned say they have more confidence in the president than in congressional Republicans to handle the major issues facing the country. Obama held a much narrower 44% to 39% margin in March.

    The poll is here.  For the record, I don’t think the poll itself contains anywhere near enough information to suggest that this one particular policy debate has a substantive effect on this change, I think Keating Holland is reasoning outside of the data.

    However, it will be interesting to see if there is followup.

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