Did you notice your paycheck was smaller this month? If you did, you’re not alone. And if you’re confused as to why, you’re not alone on that, either. For anyone who followed the “fiscal cliff” fiasco last month, you’ll recall that the main reason a deal needed to be hashed out before the first of the year was to prevent taxes from being raised on middle-income earners.
So naturally, 99 percenters everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief when Congress this month passed legislation that will raise taxes only on those making more than $400,000 per year. And yet, much to the dismay of many middle-income earners, the federal government still began sucking more money out of average Americans’ paychecks beginning in January.
That’s because a temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax expired this year, bringing the 4.2 percent tax back to its original rate of 6.2 percent. It was called the “payroll tax holiday,” part of a relief bill signed by President Barack Obama in Dec. 2010 as an effort to boost the sluggish economy for the Christmas season.
Early during the fiscal cliff negotiations with Republicans last month, Obama had initially proposed extending the payroll tax cut, but he dropped that demand as the January deadline loomed. Many critics, including the Washington Post’s Suzy Khimm, warned that the fiscal cliff deal would result in the expiration of the payroll tax cut, and they were right.
And people noticed. The 2 percent increase in payroll tax is stinging middle-income workers. Someone making $50,000, for instance, will take home $76.92 less every month, or $1,000 per year. That’s a phone bill, a new pair of shoes or a night out. What’s more, because Social Security payroll taxes are split between employers and employees, business owners will pay more, too.
Meanwhile, workers of all stripes have been venting their frustrations on Twitter, with some who had supported the president saying they now feel duped by his oft-repeated campaign mantra of not raising taxes on the middle class.
Below is just a small sample of the tweets pouring in on the issue:
@1keonclark: “This tax increase on my paycheck blows! Thanks Obama.”
@rohixx: “Thanks Obama I really enjoy getting $26.06 LESS per paycheck from your tax increase when I already had trouble paying off my student loans.”
@mlbingham: “First paycheck of 2013… thanks #obama for taking about $2k/year more of MY hard-earned $$$. #tax #obamafail”
@DJHeatDC: “Dear President Obama, I love you… but my paycheck does not!”
@jeffreywiernik: “my paycheck was about $50 lighter & I don't make over $250,000, thank you president Obama for raising taxes! #liar”
BenGrindstaff: “Nowhere near Obama's 2% but yet I am getting a smaller paycheck. His math doesn't add up either. Liar.”
@mabaltuska: “Thanks Obama for a sh--ty paycheck today. You suck.”
Whether or not Obama should bear the brunt of the blame for Americans’ smaller paychecks is open for debate. Not surprisingly, conservative news outlets have been gleefully reporting on the issue. Says the conservative website Twitchy: “Happy New Year and happy payday! Thank goodness our ‘lord and savior’ Obama signed the fiscal cliff bill into law after proudly proclaiming, ‘Under this law, more than 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses will not see their income taxes go up.’”
Regardless of who’s to blame -- the president, congressional Republicans or plain-old Washington dysfunction -- most of us just noticed we were $72 poorer this month. There goes date night.
Christopher Zara covers media, culture, entertainment and the arts. He joined IBTimes in June 2012. From 2005 to 2012, he served as managing editor of Show Business, a trade...