Santa Visits Capitol Hill

December 17, 2010, 03:04 PM

Santa’s sleigh rode down Pennsylvania Avenue on December 6th and arrived on Capitol Hill with a huge pack full of multiple gifts for big girls and boys. Congressional leaders and the President delivered an extension of the Emergency Unemployment Benefits Program that will soon be tied up in a red bow by both Houses of Congress. This eighth extension continues emergency unemployment benefits up to 86 weeks in Virginia and up to 99 weeks in many other states. Why a red bow–because the unemployment benefits have been wrapped up with an extension of what have come to be called the Bush era tax cuts, meaning that the money for the benefits is not specifically funded and adds to the national debt. The extension will bring different gifts to different recipients, and so it is difficult to describe what it means for each qualifying claimant. Approximately 2 million long term unemployed persons receiving benefits beyond the regular 26 weeks would have seen their benefits snatched away later this month in Grinch-like fashion had not the program been extended. Now everyone Hoo qualifies in the Virginia neighborhood of Obamaville and remains eligible for benefits (available for and actively seeking work) can expect to carve the roast beast for up to 86 weeks through the end of 2011. Two other gifts are included on Santa’s list. Individuals with gross income over $200,000 and married couples with gross income over $250,000 will not experience a tax rate increase in 2011 or 2012. Also, all wage earners will take home 2% more of their gross income because the worker’s mandatory deduction for social security will be reduced from 6.2% to 4.2% of gross income up to the social security annual maximum. Accordingly a worker earning $50,000 per year will take home $1,000 more in 2011. The employer’s 6.2% share was not changed. Query where Santa will find continuing funding for all of the elves’ social security benefits? In the holiday spirit, that question was left for another day. —Robert J. Barry