Captain Rick: In Lesson 4 we examine the Chemistry of the “Fiscal Cliff”… the composition of the $600 billion of tax revenue increases and spending cuts that will automatically take place by law on January 1, 2013, unless the U.S. Congress agrees to revised legislation and President Obama signs it into law before then. Agreement does not appear to be very likely as the two sides are currently far apart. The Democrats are for minimizing spending cuts and maximizing tax revenue increases, while the Republicans are for the opposite.

As large as $600 billion sounds … we learned in the “Fiscal Cliff” Math of Lesson 2 … it will only eliminate half of America’s deficit (the extra amount that is spends every year over that which it receives in revenue). In simple terms, it would take two “Fiscal Cliffs” to fix America’s deficit problem. That would balance the budget but do nothing to reduce America’s staggering $16 trillion national debt (the accumulation of all of deficit spending in past years). Even with the “Fiscal Cliff” spending cuts and tax revenue increases, Americas National Debt will continue to grow by $600 billion a year.

Congress and the President are currently trying to find ways to agree to cut the size of the “Fiscal Cliff” spending cuts and tax increases … ways to “water it down” and “kick the can” down the road for future generations to solve the U.S. Debt Crisis. It would require over 26 “Fiscal Cliffs” to eliminate the U.S. National Debt. In perspective, the “Fiscal Cliff” more closely resembles the slope of an ant hill.

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“Fiscal Cliff” Spending Cuts that take effect on January 1, 2013

Defense will be cut $55 billion in 2013 from projected levels of discretionary defense spending. That translates into at least a 10% cut to every program, project and activity that’s not explicitly exempt.

Non-defense will be cut $55 billion in 2013 from projected levels of nondefense spending, which includes things like education, Medicaid, food inspections and air travel safety. Budget experts estimate the cuts will result in at least an 8% cut to programs, projects and activities. These cuts include:

Medicare Doc Fix expires. Payment to care providers will drop 2%.

Unemployment benefits extension expires. Unemployment benefits will revert back to the old norm of 26 weeks, down form the current 99. That means workers who lose their jobs after July 1, 2012, will only receive up to 26 weeks in state unemployment benefits, down from as many as 99 weeks in state and federal benefits that had been available until recently. By one estimate, more than 2 million claimants will lose their benefits by January.

“Fiscal Cliff” Tax Revenue Increases

Bush era tax cuts will end on December 31, 2012. As a result:

Income tax rates: Rise to 15%, 28%, 31%, 36% and 39.6%, up from 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35%.

Capital gains rate: Rises to 20% from 15% for most filers.

PEP/Pease limitations: Restored. High-income households may not be able to take some itemized deductions and personal exemptions in full.

Child tax credit: Falls to $500 per child from $1,000. The refundable portion also reduced.

American Opportunity Tax Credit: Expires. The lesser value HOPE tax credit for college tuition is reinstated. Several smaller education tax benefits also expire.

Earned Income Tax Credit: Expansion of eligibility for the credit expires.

Marriage penalty relief: Expires. Effectively that means a low- or middle-income two-earner couple will owe more to the IRS than they would if they were single making the same income.

Estate tax: Parameters revert to pre-2001 levels. The exemption level falls to $1 million from $5 million; and the top tax rate on taxable estates rises to 55%, up from 35%. AMT patch

Expired already for 2012. Income exempt from the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2012 — for which taxpayers will file returns next year — falls to $33,750 for individuals and $45,000 for married couples. That’s down from $50,600 and $78,750, respectively, if the exemption amounts had been adjusted for inflation. As a result more than 30 million people will be hit by the so-called “wealth” tax, up from 4 million to date.

Obama’s Payroll tax holiday expires. The Social Security tax rate reverts to 6.2%, up from 4.2%, on the first $110,100 in wages. Effectively, someone making $50,000 will pay another $1,000 in payroll taxes next year;  someone making $150,000 will pay $2,425 more.

Some budget experts count as part of the fiscal cliff the onset of a new Medicare surtax on high-income households under health reform. They include:

A 0.9% surtax will apply to wages on earned income over $200,000 ($250,000 if married). That’s on top of the 1.45% Medicare currently owed on all wages. Those making between $200,000 and $500,000, for instance, will only pay about $633 extra while households making $1 million or more would pay another $11,242.

A 3.8% Medicare surtax will also apply for the first time to at least a portion of high-income households’ investment income.

How the “Fiscal Cliff” could effect America’s citizens

The top 1% of households, which have incomes above $506,210, would face an increase of $121,000. Within that group, the top 0.1% — those making more than $2.66 million — would get hit with a tax hike of nearly $634,000.

By contrast, households making up to $20,113 would see a $412 average increase. That may simply represent a smaller refund to those households, many of which have very little if any federal income tax liability to begin with.

Households in the middle — with total incomes between $39,790 and $64,484 — can expect a roughly $2,000 increase.

Captain Rick’s closing thoughts …

The sacrifices presented by the “Fiscal Cliff” for Americans are small in comparison to the positive effects towards solving America’s monumental debt crisis for the benefit of our generations to come. Many of the “Fiscal Cliff” elements originate from the expiration of very fiscally irresponsible previous tax cuts by Bush and Obama … ones that should have never been implemented in the first place. Giving them up is a “no-brainer”.  We should all hope that the U.S. Congress goes home early for the holidays and does not do anything to “water down” the fiscally intelligent “wheels-in-motion” that the “Fiscal Cliff” will automatically bestow on January 1, 2013.

View Captain Rick’s entire FISCAL CLIFF Course 101: https://atridim.wordpress.com/category/fiscal-cliff-course-101/

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