Local residents unhappy with Congress, cliff

On Tuesday, Congress passed a new bill intended to avert the fiscal cliff and its impending tax increases and budget cuts.

The new bill includes extended tax cuts on incomes up to $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, plus increased taxation rates for the estate tax, and changes to capital gains and dividend income exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families, according to the Associated Press.

However, members of Congress dragged their collective feet when it came to across-the-board spending cuts. Cuts set to nip spending at the Pentagon and domestic agencies this week, $109 billion worth, have been delayed for two months.

Residents of Washington County say they are unhappy about how the process was handled, think the “fiscal cliff” ordeal was overdone and believe there are still plenty of outstanding issues to be addressed by members of Congress.

Missy Bunner, 43, of Wingett Run wasn’t the least bit relieved by Congressional passage of Tuesday’s bill, she said.

“I think they’re going to stall for a little while…and that’s when we’re going to find out what’s going on,” Bunner said. “I’m afraid they’re going to take more stuff from us than they already do.”

Political posturing was behind the Congressional agreement reached by the bill, according to Jeremy Barton, 32, of Coal Run.

“(Congressional members) know what they have to do, they have to raise the (nation’s) debt limit in the next two months,” Barton said. “It’s just math.”

For Kathryn Dodrill of Marietta, Congress’ Jan. 1 bill was “a quick stop-gap measure, and they didn’t really address the issues that needed to be addressed-like spending.”

Bunner saw little in Congress’ agreement to help the nation’s deficit, she said.

“A lot of times it’s for them to get more money, than for the American people to get more money,” Bunner said.

Hating to sound like a pessimist, Dodrill said she doesn’t see that the fighting will be over in two months’ time.

“I feel like it’s going to be more of kicking the can down the road,” she said.

“They’ll do as little as possible to delay the really hard decisions,” Dodrill added.

Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said he believes it’s time to address the “spending problem” in Washington, D.C.

“Now that an agreement has been reached (that…) permanently cuts taxes on 99 percent of the American people, the table has been cleared to tackle the out-of-control federal spending that has amassed a $16 trillion national debt head-on,” said Johnson. “We must strengthen and preserve Medicare, overhaul Medicaid and completely reform our tax code.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, does not support across-the-board spending cuts for the Pentagon, he said.

“Although I will keep fighting to reallocate the across-the-board cuts in our defense programs, with the debt at record levels, Washington cannot let the spending cuts lapse,” said Portman.

Barton said he felt the whole notion of a fiscal cliff “was way overdone by politicians because everybody wanted their agenda put ahead instead of the people’s agenda.”

Should Bunner have the chance to speak to one of her legislators, she would scold them for coming so close to that proverbial cliff.

“You need to stop doing stuff to make us nervous,” said Bunner.

What many Americans also don’t realize is that a temporary Social Security payroll tax cut, passed in 2010, has just expired.

Intended as a stimulant for the struggling economy, Congress has shown no interest in extending the payroll tax cut, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington D.C. think tank.

The result is that 160 million American workers will see their taxes jump from 4.2 percent back up to 6.2 percent.

The Tax Policy Center reported that those at the bottom end of the earning spectrum, making $20,000 to $30,000 annually, will see their payroll taxes rise by $297. Those bringing home more than $1 million per year, will see a payroll tax hike of $170,341.

Stan Keach, 75, of Marietta, who continues to work 10 to 12 hours per week, said he doesn’t mind paying more payroll taxes.

“If it’s for a good cause, I don’t mind paying,” Keach said. “It just guarantees me a few more years (of Social Security).”

Barton was in agreement.

“I don’t mind paying a tax increase-if (Congress will) cut some spending,” said Barton.