THE WASHINGTON POST – JONATHAN COPPAGE
Before I began my current job at a free-market think tank in Washington, I spent more than a year working on the sales floor of a Target store in Cary, North Carolina. As I contemplated transferring colleges, I pieced together some additional income here and there, but for the most part I got by on just over $8 an hour. Some weeks, I got almost a full 40 hours, some only 12. But I managed: As a single, childless young man, I had few expenses beyond my own minimal upkeep.
I’ve been working since the earliest legal age, so I’ve long since become accustomed to calculating my expected paycheck by multiplying my hours by a formula that counted my withholding and FICA. For my entire time at Target, however, my numbers were always just a little off, and I took home a bit more money than I expected. When you’re making just over $10,000 a year, any extra pay goes a long way in helping to pay rent, keep the lights on and keep food on the table. Just before I moved to Washington in January 2013 to begin my first political job, at the American Conservative magazine, I learned why my numbers had never added up: the payroll tax holiday that was a component of the post-recession stimulus package.
For several years after the Great Recession, American workers got a twice-monthly tax cut directly on their paychecks, giving them just that little bit extra to get by. The payroll tax holiday expired on Dec. 31, 2012, as few politicians wanted to risk being accused of underfunding Social Security by extending it further. The anti-tax Republican Party looked the other way, as it was a tax on labor, not capital; perhaps they thought it excessively benefited “takers” who pay no federal income tax — I can’t say.