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January 2nd, 2013
09:02 PM ET

Letters to the President #1444: 'Cutting a messy deal'

Reporter's Note: Republicans and Democrats in Congress finally struck a deal to avoid the so called fiscal cliff. The president is relieved. I mean, he’s relieved to receive my daily letter…who knows how he feels about the budget deal?

Dear Mr. President,

If there is one message we can take away from the past few days it is this: Government is messy. Messy as a new puppy, or a teenager, or my garage.

Striking that deal on the fiscal cliff is an accomplishment, yes, but look at all the carnage that surrounds it. It came so late that neither party can really, reasonably expect anyone to admire their efforts on this front. It included, as legislation so often does, items that were rushed in at the last moment that even now are making watchdog groups raise their eyebrows. And most notably, somehow in the rush to deal with all that the Republicans in the House sidestepped approving aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy, and no matter what their intentions were, that landed like a hog falling off a building in New York and New Jersey.

Probably one of the messiest parts of all to this however, is the end of the payroll tax holiday. To be honest, very few people…including most of us in the media…said much about it until right up until nearly the end of the year, but this is a change that is absolutely going to cost a lot of middle class families money. As best we can compute it, the additional taxes for those folks (or the return to standard taxation, as it is probably more accurately describes) means most middle income families will have hundreds or thousands of dollars less in their pockets this year…and the next, and the next, and on and on, because that money is going to the government.

I mention it, because I think an awful lot of people did not see this coming, and while they will get used to it, I would not be surprised if some of them also resented it a bit. Who will pay the price politically? Well, maybe no one. Maybe it’s not enough money to make that kind of a difference. But coming as it did as yet another messy part…a nasty surprise…in a very messy deal, I would not bet on that.

I hope all is well. Call if you can.

Regards,
Tom

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