Mitt Romney has proposed a tax plan that makes little sense, pleases the rich, and confuses everybody else. Barack Obama has proposed a tax plan that is straight forward and polls extremely well. But there's one way Romney can beat Obama on taxes. It's a plan that would completely shock the Obama campaign, appeal directly to middle class families, and lower taxes on every man and woman with a paycheck.
Mitt Romney should loudly support the extension of the payroll tax cut.
Next year, payroll taxes are projected to return to normal rates. For the typical middle class family, this would feel like a tax hike worth more than $1,000. That is a huge deal in a weak economy with practically no real wage growth among the bottom 50%. In fact, Goldman Sachs projects that the payroll tax hike would be severe enough to wipe out the estimated boost of Bernanke's latest round of stimulus, QE3.
So why isn't Obama talking about it? Why aren't Republicans fighting for it? Why has Tim Geithner said "I don't see any reason to consider supporting its extension"? Why is there "universal acceptance" that payroll taxes will go back to normal when this would represent a $130 billion hit to the economy -- almost as much as the Bush tax cut for lower-income families and more that the impact of budget sequestration and the expiration of unemployment insurance (UI) combined? Well, payroll taxes pay directly into Social Security and lawmakers feel nervous about depleting that coffer.