Merkley’s plan for millionaires

WASHINGTON — Lower taxes for millionaires or billions to shore up Social Security? That’s the choice U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is trying to force with a proposal he offered on Thursday.

Merkley proposed the idea in response to President Barack Obama’s package of tax cuts, which would prevent taxes from increasing for millions of taxpayers, temporarily cut payroll taxes and estate taxes, and extend several other tax credits. The plan provoked outrage among Democratic lawmakers, who said the government shouldn’t keep taxes low for the wealthy in the face of huge budget deficits. Moderate and even many conservative Republicans, on the other hand, have had generally positive reactions to the plan.

So Merkley proposed letting tax cuts for people earning more than $1 million a year expire, and directing that money to the Social Security trust fund. Because Obama’s plan would reduce the amount of money going into Social Security for two years through lower payroll taxes, it only makes sense to fill in that gap, Merkley said.

The proposal would funnel an estimated $300 billion to the Social Security trust fund, based on Senate Finance Committee projections.

“Let’s make sure it is used to fill in Social Security and that’s what this does,” Merkley said.