Here’s the way it stands so far:
— Tax rates will permanently rise to Clinton-era levels for families with income above $450,000 and individuals above $400,000. All income below the threshold will permanently be taxed at Bush-era rates.
— The tax on capital gains and dividends will be permanently set at 20 percent for those with income above the $450,000/$400,000 threshold. It will remain at 15 percent for everyone else. (Clinton-era rates were 20 percent for capital gains and taxed dividends as ordinary income, with a top rate of 39.6 percent.)
— The estate tax will be set at 40 percent for those at the $450,000/$400,000 threshold, with a $5 million exemption. That threshold will be indexed to inflation, as a concession to Republicans and some Democrats in rural areas like Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mt.).
— The sequester will be delayed for two months. Half of the delay will be offset by discretionary cuts, split between defense and non-defense. The other half will be offset by revenue raised by the voluntary transfer of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, which would tax retirement savings when they’re moved over.
— The pay freeze on members of Congress, which Obama had lifted earlier this year, will be re-imposed.
— The 2009 expansion of tax breaks for low-income Americans: the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit will be extended for five years.
— The Alternative Minimum Tax will be permanently patched to avoid raising taxes on the middle-class.
— The deal will not address the debt-ceiling, and the payroll tax holiday will be allowed to expire.
— Two limits on tax exemptions and deductions for higher-income Americans will be reimposed: Personal Exemption Phaseout (PEP) will be set at $250,000 and the itemized deduction limitation (Pease) kicks in at $300,000.
—The full package of temporary business tax breaks — benefiting everything from R&D and wind energy to race-car track owners — will be extended for another year.
— Scheduled cuts to doctors under Medicare would be avoided for a year through spending cuts that haven’t been specified.
— Federal unemployment insurance will be extended for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks. This $30 billion provision won’t be offset.
— A nine-month farm bill fix will be attached to the deal, Sen. Debbie Stabenow told reporters, averting the newly dubbed milk cliff.
It’s gotten through the Senate and has yet to be passed by the House.
As for the consequences, this certainly does very little to solve our difficulties in financing government. It’s very much a case of jockeying for political gains and kick the can down the road.
That said, it seems somewhat better than I thought it would be in the political sense, although that’s a tentative conclusion at this point. I thought Obama would get much more from the Republicans and give up even less.
But the bottom line, politically—at least as best I can figure it—is that for most voters this is very much inside baseball. Bloggers and pundits can jaw-jaw all they want about it, and each side can claim some sort of victory (or criticize a perceived defeat), but my sense is that most Americans are heartily sick of the bipartisan lack of ability of our “leaders” to tackle our serious problems.