January 2, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Deal Leaves Many Losers

By Bruce Krasting  
The House of Representatives voted Tuesday night to approve a Senate bill to avert a feared fiscal cliff.  This would bring results along the lines I describe below.  
These people are desperately trying to fail.
My read of the President’s speech is that there is a deal that will avoid the cliff. So go enjoy New Year’s Eve. Give it another 30 days, and we’ll be right back into the soup. My scorecard on the deal.
-If you’re unemployed, you’re a winner. You get another extension of benefits.
-If you’re employed, you’re a loser. Fully 155m workers are going to pay 2% more on income starting tomorrow. The increase in FICA taxes will come to a lumpy $120B. This will rank as one of the largest YoY tax increases in history. This is a very regressive tax increase. There is a $108K cap on what is subject to FICA taxes, so high incomes do not feel the bite. But those who earn an average income will see a meaningful reduction in disposable income ($2,000 per household).
This is a decidedly un-Democratic outcome. The rich avoid taxes, lower incomes pays a disproportionate share. Who insisted that this unfair outcome was part of the deal? Answer: Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. Don’t blame the Republicans when your next check has an extra bite out of it. “Go figure?”, on this outcome.
-If you make between $250 and $400k, you are a very big winner, congratulations. Half of the top 2% just got a free pass.
-If you make over $450k, the cliff deal says you may have to pay more taxes. I wouldn’t worry too much about the top 1% – that group has 18% of all income. The move from 35 to 39.6% for America’s richest will not matter a bit. None of them paid the old rate, they won’t pay the new higher rate either.
-If you’re one of the 33 million taxpayers who avoided falling prey to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) by the last minute patch, you dodged a bullet. This would have taken an average of $4k out of your pocket. I’m happy for you.
-If you’re one of the 4 million hopeless losers who have been stuck with AMT in prior years, you’re going to get stuck again. I’m one of those poor souls who is mired in this tax trap. It’s a very unfair outcome for me. I make a fraction of the top 1%, but because of AMT, I pay a minimum federal tax of 28% while the top 1% pays an average of only 15%. Where’s the damn cyanide?
-The defense industry will have the bubbly out, no sequestration for them for the time being.  Phew! I was really sweating this one!
-Investors will also have the Champagne out. They dodged a bullet – at least for the next 60 days…..Keeping the 15% Cap Gains rate for most incomes is a plus, the new 20% rate for the top filers is agift.
-The American people are very big losers. The cliff deal just sets up another crises before the snow melts. Nothing has been accomplished that addresses the uncertainty factor. The deal insures a big deficit for 2013. It will not increase tax revenue from the top 1%. It will result in a big increase in payroll taxes that will hurt the bottom 40%.
-Washington is the biggest loser of all. Democrats, Republicans, Senate, House and Obama all come off looking like chumps. They didn’t deliver anything but a Band Aid. I give the cliff deal a D-.
About The Author - Bruce Krasting had worked on Wall Street for 25 years--"For 25 years I woke up thinking, "What am I going to do today to make some money in the market". I don't do that any longer. But I miss it." Nowadays, Bruce blogs about his take on financial events at Bruce Krasting(EconMatters author archive here.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.

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