We don't begrudge Oklahoma County employees a modest pay raise, but the justification for the current raise is curious. It's one that could be used by other government agencies as they catch up with deferred pay increases.
County officials voted to increase pay across the board by 2 percent. Supposedly this is to offset the dip in paychecks that took place after Jan. 1, when the status quo was restored to payroll withholding for Social Security. All working Americans were affected by the change; few of them will get a pay raise because of it.
Cutting the withholding deduction temporarily was a sop by Congress and the president, to boost the economy in a time of downturn. We all knew this was temporary. It could have been extended, of course, but Washington decided otherwise. Still, it was not a tax increase. It was more like calling in a short-term loan.
Suppose your mortgage company cut your monthly payment by 2 percent for two years. This would mean a temporary lower payment but not a reduction in the principal. In fact, it could mean paying more later. When the payment went back up after two years, it wouldn't be an increase but a restoration. Now suppose you demanded a 2 percent pay raise from your employer to cover the restoration.
This is the situation in which county officials have placed taxpayers. County Commission Chairman Ray Vaughn, a Republican, said county employees need a raise. We don't disagree, but we do find the justification rather strained. Vaughn was critical of President Barack Obama for failing to extend the payroll tax cut. We're critical of Obama for failing to address long-term problems with Social Security and Medicare as well as creating a new one with Obamacare.
Most private-sector employees won't get a pay raise because the withholding tax went back to what it was. Should government workers?