Who has the power in Washington? Who won the payroll-tax battle? Not Republicans, not Democrats — government employees.
The new deal on the payroll-tax extension (which will do little or nothing to benefit the economy) was held up by a largely unrelated matter: requiring federal workers to contribute more toward the costs of their own pensions. (More, Congress? How does 100 percent strike you?) The original proposal would have required all federal workers to bear more of the costs of their own retirements, but Democrats representing Maryland, that tony little suburb of Leviathan, shrieked. The compromise instead will cover only new hires.
I’m still tickled that the Obama administration’s great political victory here is getting Republicans to agree to a stupid tax cut with no offsets — stupid tax cuts with no offsets being a Republican specialty — but the outcome is grim: The combination of stupid spending and stupid tax cuts is a potent one, and it may be an indicator of worse things to come. If we should revert to the Bush-Hastert-Pelosi model, in which Republicans and Democrats simply swap tax cuts and spending increases between themselves to keep the machinery moving, the consequences for our national debt will be, in a word, terrifying.
But as the ship takes on water, you can bet that federal workers will continue to loot the fisc until the last rapidly depreciating U.S. dollar has been spoken for.