Congress wins no friends so far

Officially, Congress might have avoided the fiscal cliff with a New Year’s deal, but it left the nation mired in a political and economic morass.

And any bump in respect that Congress might have gotten with the deal likely will vanish as many workers receive their first paychecks and discover while they might not be paying higher income taxes, the two-year break in the payroll tax vanished with 2012.

Two years ago, Congress temporarily reduced the employee share of payroll tax – used to finance Social Security – from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent in an effort to boost the economy. That meant a worker making $50,000 a year, took home an extra $1,000 or nearly $20 a week.

With the New Year, the payroll tax is back at 6.2 percent, so paychecks will be smaller.

Plus, there is a lot the fiscal cliff deal didn’t do, such as addressing the spending cuts or raising the debt ceiling. Instead, those fights were put on hold for a couple of months, when we expect the same hardened stances seen in 2012 will resume and delay any solution as both sides posture politically and try to blame each other for the problems.

The upcoming fights over spending cuts and the debt ceiling might make what Americans witnessed on Capitol Hill in November and December look like a children’s party.

Also, there’s the possibility of a government showdown in late March unless Congress finds a way to work together and compromise.

Americans will pay for all of the uncertainty.

Many economists believe the unknown will hamper the economic growth our nation desperately needs after the slow recovery from the last recession.

It would be wonderful if Congress could avoid the knock-down, drag-out fights that seem to accompany every issue.

It’s a safer bet that political brinkmanship will prevail in the coming weeks as the same battles of 2012 are fought again.

Is it any surprise Congress doesn’t rank higher in public opinion polls?

– The Altoona Mirror