Bipartisan silliness on payroll tax cut

@CNNMoney December 13, 2011: 7:05 PM ET
In the Senate, Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell have put forth

In the Senate, Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell have put forth "pay for" proposals that target millionaires receiving government benefits.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Who says Republicans and Democrats can't agree on how to pay for extending the Social Security tax break?

Sure, the parties have put forth some very different proposals and are still scrambling for compromise near the 11th hour. Democrats want to tax the rich. And Republicans want to shrink the federal workforce and charge the wealthy more for Medicare.

But there's been a smidge of bipartisanship along the way: Senate Democrats last week included in their initial proposal two GOP measures that have to be among the least effective ways to pay for anything.

Crack down on millionaires who get food stamps: This provision would disqualify anyone from collecting food stamps if they receive "income or assets with a fair market value of at least $1,000,000."

Who can disagree with that?

But realistically, how many millionaires would be affected?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp program, the answer is "zero." So by extension, that would mean precisely zip would be saved by prohibiting those non-existent millionaires from collecting food stamp payments.

Senate GOP lays out payroll tax cut plan

Oh, there was one case earlier this year.

The press in Michigan reported on a food stamp recipient who had won the lottery but was continuing to collect benefits anyway because technically he was still eligible under the rules. He is no longer collecting benefits. And states were asked to develop ways to make sure that doesn't happen again, according to the USDA.

A spokesman for Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, said it's hard to say how many people might be affected but that the GOP didn't assume much savings from the provision.

That's good. Because even if there were tens of millionaires on food stamps, given that the average monthly payment last year was a whopping $133.79, turning away the rich won't go very far as a pay-for.

"I don't think that barring millionaires from getting food stamps is going to strike a courageous blow for fiscal restraint," said Robert Bixby, who runs the Concord Coalition, a deficit watchdog group.

Kick millionaires off the dole: This measure would ban millionaires from collecting unemployment compensation.

In 2009, 2,362 people with adjustable gross income of $1 million or more claimed nearly $21 million in benefits, the Senate GOP noted last week, citing IRS data.

There are no specific estimates for how much this ban might save going forward.

Of course, the ranks of the jobless in 2009 swelled because the financial sector, which boasts lots of millionaires, had imploded and the economy was in a deep recession. So presumably the $21 million in benefits paid to the rich was unusually high that year.

But even if that were the amount every year, it would amount to $210 million in savings over a decade. That's about 0.1% of the estimated cost of the Senate Democrats' latest proposal.

Now the parties just have to agree on how to pay for the other 99.9%. To top of page

Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.80%3.88%
15 yr fixed3.20%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.84%3.88%
30 yr refi3.82%3.93%
15 yr refi3.20%3.23%
Rate data provided
View rates in your area
Find personalized rates:
Economic Calendar
Latest ReportNext Update
Home pricesAug 28
Consumer confidenceAug 28
GDPAug 29
Manufacturing (ISM)Sept 4
JobsSept 7
Inflation (CPI)Sept 14
Retail sales Sept 14
  • -->

    Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.