This is straight out of Ron Klain’s opinion piece on Bloomberg entitled “How to Defuse Political Peril of Surging Gas Prices”:
One idea might be a “pocketbook protection” plan, which would work as follows: If the average price of gas exceeds $4 a gallon, an additional, automatic payroll tax cut of 1 percent would kick in, as much as $50 per month, per person. The cut would stay in place for at least 90 days; it would disappear when the price fell below $4.00 per gallon.
There are three advantages to this approach. First, because the plan is of limited duration and is capped at $50 a month, its cost is relatively modest — about $5 billion a month, or $20 billion total, assuming the usual four-month gas-price surge. Second, because it isn’t a reduction in gas taxes, it doesn’t weaken any incentives for fuel conservation or efficiency: All workers get $50 to soften the blow of higher gas prices, but the less fuel they use, the more money they save. And third, the relief provides the greatest relative help to lower-income workers who need gas to commute and feel the price pinch the hardest.
Admittedly, by decoupling the tax relief from gas-tax collections, the pocketbook protection plan does give some benefit to workers who don’t drive. But any such windfall is modest, and even these non-drivers will need help dealing with the ripple effect of rising gas prices on the costs of other goods and services that are transportation-dependent.
The plan could be almost entirely paid for with a modest, no-loopholes surcharge on corporate taxes on profit derived from the higher gas prices. The administration would be able to avoid pejorative terms such as “windfall” or “excess” profit tax, because the tax is neither confiscatory nor punitive. With higher gas prices, oil companies will make record profit — and a partial surcharge will still leave that profit at record high levels. In other words, the plan isn’t vulnerable to suggestions of creeping, soak-the-rich redistribution. It would leave in place all incentives for oil companies to increase production, do more research and development, and explore alternative fuels. But a modest surcharge would help fund at least a partial pocketbook protection program to make sure the cost of the oil companies’ gain isn’t excessive pain for the rest of us.
So, instead of helping to lower gas prices via domestic oil projects like the Keystone Pipeline (which would also give jobs to Americans), one suggestion is to cut the payroll tax when gas prices are high (underfunding Social Security), and pay for it by a surcharge on corporate taxes. All in the name of “political peril”. Not economic peril — Obama’s political peril.