Paul Jacob

Congress finally acted in bipartisan fashion this past week, extending the 2 percent payroll tax cut through the rest of 2012. President Obama praised the effort, proclaiming, “It is amazing what happens when Congress focuses on doing the right thing, instead of just playing politics.”

On Valentine’s Day, the country discovered that a 4-year-old girl had the lunch her mother packed at home confiscated at a public school. Instead, the girl was fed three chicken nuggets. The incident was thankfully peaceful, requiring no SWAT team involvement.

Last Wednesday, a bipartisan collection of politicians and insiders stood in a Denver courtroom protesting before a federal judge that the people of Colorado were violating the right of state legislators to raise taxes and spend money as legislators please.

What do these three stories have in common? On the face of it, nothing. But they do point to today’s frightening, over-arching reality: Our government is wildly out of control.

Let me first admit: I wholeheartedly support the two-percent payroll tax cut. Better that I retain my own money to provide for my retirement than it be taken under the demonstrably false pretense that the federal government will do the saving for me.

Sure, this cut to Social Security revenue just as outgoing payments again outstrip incoming funds dangerously undermines the pension system. Critics in Congress and out have a point. Or, they might have one, if many decades of poor-to-fraudulent congressional management of the program had not already done so.

Giving taxpayers back 2 percent of their own money is more likely to improve their golden year prospects than will handing that cash over to the Obama Administration and the least popular Congress in history.

Alas, the tax cut isn’t “paid for” — there are no cuts being made in other spending. The tax relief comes by putting the United States of America $90 billion further in debt.

Additionally, the same bill provides yet another “doctor fix.” Congress has repeatedly patted itself on the back for cutting spending by reducing future payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients, only to then go back and quietly pass a “fix” that restores the very payments Congress had cut to great fanfare.

Had the payments been actually reduced, Medicare patients might not have been able to find medical care, so the “doctor fix” makes some sense. But surely going through the cycle of cutting and then restoring those cuts, again and again, signals the extent to which the whole thing is a con game.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.