Discuss: Have you done a double take on your paycheck yet?
Have you done a double take on your paycheck yet?
I compared my December and first January pay stub and I can see, and feel, the difference. At the beginning of this year, payroll taxes went up thanks to the deal that President Obama and Congress made to avert going off the "fiscal cliff." Going off the cliff would have triggered automatic spending cuts, and the uncertainty probably would have pushed the country into another recession, economists said.
Part of the deal let a two-year-old payroll-tax break expire on Social Security withholdings. You're now seeing a 2 percent increase in taxes because your Social Security contribution increased from 4.2 to 6.2 percent, according to Bloomberg. A family making the median income of $64,293 will take home $1,286 less this year, according to Bloomberg.
The deal also raised taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 a year. Congress postponed the automatic spending cuts and did not make any cuts to the federal government's own spending. Here are all the details of the deal from the AP.
In other words, the federal government gave itself a raise — through tax increases on the wealthy and letting the payroll-tax credit expire on all workers — but the government did not trim any of its own budget. But all workers in America are expected to trim their own spending as paychecks shrink. To recap, I made the handy chart to the right.
This hurts families with children and lower-income people. A man or woman making the minimum wage in Washington state earns $1,470.40 per month (before taxes are withheld). His or her monthly pay will go down by $29.41. That's enough to force someone to choose between groceries or utilities. For middle-class families, economists predict it will affect consumer spending.
I am still figuring out what I'll be trimming from my double-income-no-kids, middle-class household. I might eat less meat (saving $80 per month). When I was earning intern wages, I was an involuntary vegetarian for a year. Maybe I'll hold off on adopting a dog (saving $100 a month). I might buy a generic allergy medication at Costco, instead of Zyrtec at Bartell Drugs (saving $12 per month). And I feel incredibly lucky that I don't have to choose between my mortgage and medicine.
What are you trimming? Let us know in the form below. If the results indicate anything interesting, I'll share them in a future blog post.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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