As Congress returns to Washington after the holiday break its members must pick up where they left off by extending the Social Security tax cut and providing unemployment payments to the long-term unemployed for the final nine months remaining in 2012.
Those recession-fighting benefits that go almost entirely to the 99 percent have a price tag of $160 billion, give or take a billion. Economists worry that letting the cuts expire might shove the country back into recession. But nobody, from the Obama administration on down, has come up with a way to pay for the perks within a reasonable period of time.
Many of the ideas proposed would be permanent changes that would cut spending or raise revenues in relatively small amounts, such as preventing state and local government workers from improperly claiming Social Security benefits or repealing a tax break taken by businesses that buy corporate jets.