By Pat Sisneros and Juergen Kneifel
Winston Churchill once said, “Americans will always do the right things … after they’ve exhausted all other options.”
The latest dust-up in Washington, D.C., over a temporary payroll-tax-cut extension makes us wonder if this is still the case.
The agreement between President Barack Obama and the Congress to extend the tax cut by two months is being declared a political victory for the president. Obama argued that this extension was necessary and important to help create jobs in our struggling economy.
We won’t deal with the winners and losers in the political drama in this column, but we will instead take issue with whether this extension will help create jobs.
We’d argue that not a single small business in this country will create a single job because the federal government extended the temporary payroll tax cut by just two months. Businesses just don’t make hiring and investment decisions based on a temporary (two months!) extension of tax policy. This is just plain common sense.
To argue otherwise makes us question whether our political leaders know how businesses make hiring decisions and what the necessary ignitions are to jump-start job creation.
We wouldn’t disagree that most middle-class folks could use a few extra bucks in their paychecks. Middle-class wages have been stagnant for decades. And there are deep structural changes occurring in the world economy that are having a significant impact on our economy’s ability to grow today and in the future.
But given these seemingly big changes, the payroll tax cut can’t be the best idea Washington has to help get our economy growing again.
What about addressing the fact that the federal government is borrowing 40 cents on every dollar that we spend this year? This isn’t sustainable. Everyone knows it isn’t sustainable, and yet there is no political will to do anything about it.
What about restructuring Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid so they don’t bankrupt this nation?
What about doing something about the overly complex and loophole-filled tax code? Why don’t our political leaders debate plans that make the tax code simpler and consider lowering tax rates, reducing deductions and broadening the base – thus generating more revenue?
What about implementing immigration reform that would include allowing more students from foreign countries to stay in this country after they graduate, so they have the opportunity to start new and innovative businesses?
Do we really need more business regulation, or should we stamp out the crony capitalism that exists in Washington, D.C., and enforce the rules we already have on the books? To date, not a single criminal charge has been brought against a Wall Street or big-bank executive for the financial meltdown.
What about making the necessary investments in education and our infrastructure to adequately prepare us for the future? Cuts today will impact the ability to create the jobs of tomorrow.
Where is the political will to make the tough decisions? Could our politics be any worse?
Maybe we have reached the end of the line for living up to the high standards Churchill had for this country, that we “always do the right things.” Maybe we are getting exactly what we deserve when we see on the news a few days before Christmas that shoppers in the very early morning at Southcenter Mall were fighting over a new version of the Air Jordan basketball shoe. Police had to use pepper spray to break up these fights – over shoes!
Where are our priorities? How can we expect more from our political and business leaders if we don’t have high standards for ourselves?
Pat Sisneros is the vice president of college services at Everett Community College. Juergen Kneifel is a senior associate faculty in the EvCC Business program. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.