Before the House objected to it [“House GOP balks at payroll tax deal,” front page, Dec, 19], the Obama administration hailed the proposed extension of the payroll tax cut for “preventing a tax increase on 160 million hardworking Americans,” yet such rhetoric obscures the purpose of the extension and undermines the notion of shared responsibility that the president has chosen to make a centerpiece of his reelection campaign.

Payroll taxes, when not raided by Congress, directly fund the Social Security and Medicare programs, from which all taxpayers benefit during their retirement years. The payroll tax extension would be less appealing if voters understood that it further weakened the popular entitlement programs on which the middle class especially depends.

President Obama should level with the American people and present the extension for what it is — not well-earned “tax relief” but a temporary economic stimulus that does not alter the long-term responsibility of all taxpayers to contribute to their financial stability and health in retirement.

Anthony J. Marcavage, Silver Spring

President Obama and Democrats in Congress should oppose Republican attempts to force the president’s hand on the Keystone Pipeline decision. Republicans are perfectly happy to block the president from acting when it comes to nominees to federal courts and agencies. Forget the payroll tax cut. I’d be far more hopeful about this country’s future if I saw the Democrats drawing a line in the sand and sticking by it.

Deborah Katz, Arlington

●How can a reduction in employee contributions to the Social Security trust fund be a tax cut? While employees will see extra cash in their paychecks now, shouldn’t they expect reduced benefits when they retire? Oh, wait, I get it. The Social Security trust fund is an accounting gimmick. Retirement benefits are not a return of employee contributions. They are current payments from general tax revenue. Until politicians have the courage to make this plain to us, eliminate the trust fund fiction and restructure Social Security funding, we will never solve the country’s debt problem.

William Hoffman, Springfield