Fiscal cliff deal leaves many in Atlanta angry

Facing smaller paychecks this year, many Georgians expressed disgust with how Congress and the White House dodged the so-called fiscal cliff.

A compromise deal between Democrats and Republicans, which has been sent to President Barack Obama, does not extend a Social Security tax cut in effect for the past two years. Taxes on salaries will increase 2 percent in 2013, even if other tax cuts eventually are restored for most people.

That amounts to a $1,000 increase on a person earning $50,000 per year, which could be painful for those still climbing back from the Great Recession. As that realization hit, many metro Atlantans started the new year feeling fear and contempt.

A father and wage-earner wondered how he and his wife will pay for groceries after taking the hit. A baby boomer professional said he’ll be putting aside less toward retirement and is convinced another recession looms. A small business owner said that to pay higher taxes, she’ll have to stop saving for a house, reduce her Roth IRA contribution or give up vacations.

She’ll probably take the last option, said Anne Almasy, a 31-year-old self-employed photographer from Atlanta who calculates she’ll pay an extra $1,500 this year toward Social Security.

“Most of our elected officials aren’t in touch with voters,” Almasy said. “They’re in touch with people who give them campaign donations. There’s not a lot getting accomplished, because people are sticking to their sides so aggressively.”

Kyle Callaro, a Canton resident who manages a restaurant in Atlantic Station, said he and his wife have already given up vacations, movies and dinners out. After paying bills and their mortgage each month, they have about $600 to spare for groceries, gas and other essentials, he said. His wife doesn’t have health insurance because she’s only working part-time in order to keep day-care costs down for their 3-year-old son.

Callaro, 38, said, “I have no faith in our government. They don’t care about us. We are numbers, that’s all I am.”

Atlanta resident Dave Taylor said he believes another recession is imminent because the country is still running off a fiscal cliff. Congress and the president are only dealing with about 1 percent of the nation’s financial problems, he said.

“I think we’re at an impasse similar to at the start of the Civil War,” Taylor, a Republican, said. “There really isn’t anybody in the middle anymore. It’s become a battle of whether we’re going to be a socialist country or a capitalist country.”

Taylor said he can afford the payroll tax by reducing his 401(k) contribution.

“It’s going to slow down what I can put away,” he said. “I’m 64, so I’m more concerned about it than I was when I was 24.”

Bryan Long, executive director of Better Georgia, said he would prefer that Social Security taxes stayed the same, but a compromise needed to be reached.

“I know the deal’s not going to be perfect for everyone,” he said. “I don’t want perfect to be the enemy of good.”

Leading up to the midnight Monday deadline Congress faced, the Athens-based advocacy group, which describes itself on its website as nonpartisan and progressive, delivered bags of groceries to local offices of U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey and Rob Woodall, trying to show what most families would lose with a higher tax burden. Better Georgia also delivered a lump of coal to Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ office after he said he wasn’t favoring a deal.

Chambliss wound up voting for the compromise, saying in a statement, “This deal is far from what this country needs, but I cannot in good conscience allow taxes to be raised on all Americans and send our economy into turmoil.”

One resident of Powder Springs said he believes the threat of much higher taxes was a ruse to make Americans feel good about paying more into Social Security.

“I think it’s all just a big show,” said Rick Davis, 62. “They’re a bunch of jerks to make us think they’re working overtime to keep us from going over the fiscal cliff, when they’re the ones who created the problem in the first place.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.