Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Kirk: Raise Payroll Tax

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sen. Mark Kirk says the parts of President Obama's American Jobs Act that have bi-partisan support should be broken out and passed quickly. Other parts, he says, are non-starters and deserve extra attention.

    Sen. Mark Kirk wants to raise taxes.

    Now, wait, hold on. Before you Tea Partiers start jumping to conclusions and calling him a Republican In Name Only, let’s clarify something: Kirk only wants to raise taxes on middle and lower-class employees. Not on wealthy investors. There’s nothing more Republican that that.

    In an interview that aired Sunday, Kirk told C-SPAN’s newsmakers that he opposes extending the payroll tax cut. The payroll tax, which funds Social Security, was reduced from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for 2011. Kirk supported that, but now thinks the one-year cut should expire. President Obama wants to cut the payroll tax even more, to 3.1 percent. House Republicans seem inclined to let it remain at the current rate.

    “It is the right policy because one of the lessons of Europe is that you can’t run retirement security programs without contributions to retirement security,” Kirk said. “Seniors have enough to worry about as it is without the Congress voting on a bipartisan basis to undermine contributions to Social Security.”

    That’s not entirely accurate. According to Politico, “the Social Security Trust Fund would be replenished with debt-financed transfers from the Treasury at an estimated cost of $119.6 billion over 10 years.”

    That means the shortfall in money from regressive payroll taxes has been replaced by progressive income taxes -- a boon for low-wage workers.

    Kirk is not always in favor of raising taxes. During his Senate campaign, he argued in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts, which were scheduled to expire in 2010. His opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, only wanted to extend the cuts for taxpayers earning less than $250,000 a year.