Analysis: Why payroll is more than a short-term victory for Obama
December 23rd, 2011
06:56 PM ET
3 years ago

Analysis: Why payroll is more than a short-term victory for Obama

Washington (CNN) - This week the White House got more than it could have hoped for in the payroll tax cut extension showdown.

Republicans handed President Barack Obama an opportunity to turn his jobs campaign narrative into a real-life drama.

Since September when the president delivered his jobs speech to a joint session of Congress, he's been trying to sell a twofold message:

One - as president he's fighting for "working Americans."

Or, as he said on September 22: "I'm a warrior for the middle class" and "I'm happy to fight for working Americans."

Two - Congress is in his words "dysfunctional," standing in the way of policy that could improve the economy.

That's the message but the reality looked different. From the outside it appeared as though the president has been locked in battle with Congress with all sides deserving blame.

Until now.

This week it was House Republicans on one side and the president on the other standing with working Americans. Literally.
Thursday the White House invited "regular Americans" to flank Obama as he asked House Republicans to just let them have their forty dollars per paycheck. (Forty dollars is the amount the average American would see missing from his or her paycheck were the payroll tax cut not extended in the new year.)

"It may be that there's some folks in the House who refuse to vote for this compromise because they don't think that forty bucks is a lot of money. But anyone who knows what it's like to stretch a budget knows that at the end of the week or the month, forty dollars can make all the difference in the world," the president said.

Then he went on to tell the sympathetic stories of Americans who count on that money. Like Richard from Rhode Island who says forty dollars is what it costs him to buy home heating oil. Obama read from Richard's letter, "If someone doesn't think that twelve gallons of heating oil is important, I invite them to spend three nights in an unheated home. Or you can believe me when I say that it makes a difference."

Republicans want to remind the American people that the president has contributed to the gridlock in Washington. In a statement endorsing the deal Speaker John Boehner accepted, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted that "the only reason we are even discussing an extension of temporary measures like the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance is (the President's) own failure to turn our nation's economy around." And he said "the President's statements castigating House Republicans have thus amounted to the kind of unhelpful political opportunism Americans are tired of."

Ultimately Obama will be judged on economy. The White House knows that.

But with the payroll tax fight, Republicans handed the president a surprise opportunity to play a role his aides want him to play during the campaign: champion of the middle class.


Filed under: Congress • President Obama • Taxes • White House
soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. Peter Knight

    It is crystal clear for all to see. Replublicans want to remove Obama, whatever the cost, even the nations economic security. They wish to break America and then blame Obama...

    December 24, 2011 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  2. skytag

    "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted that "the only reason we are even discussing an extension of temporary measures like the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance is (the President's) own failure to turn our nation's economy around.""

    He can insist all he wants, but it isn't true. The President doesn't have magical powers to fix the damage done over decades to the economy. McConnell is a weasel, using completely unsupportable rhetoric to blame the president for something that is not his fault.

    December 24, 2011 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  3. chinedu

    I think the president is doing a job so far, he need another four years.

    December 24, 2011 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  4. AlaskaPalin

    Beohner is the worst speaker since pelosi. If the congress is to work; there is a great need for more patriotic teaparty members. After winning so many battles its pathetic- this final defeat of the republicans in congress. The unraveling of the gop started long before the teaparty; in fact it was because of the teaparty that there is even a hint of life in the gop. Beohner needs to go!

    December 24, 2011 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  5. ironfoot

    The president has failed to turn the economy around? Yes, it's been painfully slow. But let's not forget it was the Republicans who screwed it up in the first place, and they are the ball and chain hindering us now.

    December 24, 2011 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  6. ajenn202

    politics is a business.democrats are dumb and republicans are single-minded fools. they deserve each other and we deserve better!

    December 24, 2011 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  7. Herman in Anaheim

    its about time tjhe american people get a chance to speak their minds. He now needs to get the elderly that live on social security and medicare to join hands around him along with the middle class and poor and broad cast on world wide TV. Papers, internet to let the republicans know were not going to let them steal from the poor to give to the rich. Elections are coming up to grt rid of the republicans who signed the pact to not tax the rich and steal from the poor peoples and midle class social security and medicare. We must build the most modern up to date factorys , scholarships for engineeers and tec people to take back our jobs we have lost to other countries. Limit imports to equal exports, tax imports pay for new factories and education. Taxing imports will indirectory tax the rich because the rich put up the money to build manufactuiring companies in china and controled by china cause china own majority in the the manufacturig companies in china and dictates the promised low labor.

    December 24, 2011 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  8. Scott

    I think she has it wrong, she needs to learn her politics better. It made Obama look like a hypocrite. If you recall Obama was pushing for a year long extension of the payroll tax. When the Republicans tried to keep that going, Obama changes his mind and goes for the two month. This is typical of Obama and the way he governs, his polices are like a weather vane, changing direction.

    December 24, 2011 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  9. Anonymous

    In the meantime, no one is reporting on the United Police States Act – er, defense bill, that both parties voted to pass overwhelming. While they distract us with political theater, behind the scenes they worked together to insure that a US citizen can now be locked up indefinitely without charges.

    December 24, 2011 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  10. Tony

    Ive been out of work for months and this marks the first time i couldnt get my daughter a xmas gift! Ide love to see a house rep. In my shoes right now! They/rep are so out of touch. Personally ide kill for that forty bucks a week! I beg the republicans to stop shooting down everything obama trys to do for us... So does my daughter!

    December 24, 2011 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  11. Showmeyerpapers

    Obummer leads the charge against states rights. Lets go back 50 years and say illegal invaders killed zero americans from 1960~1970. If they killed a mere 1 american per day per state thats 720 000 americans murdered since

    December 24, 2011 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  12. Liz morente

    We are in a challenging economy. Even rich people r reluctant to open a business but saving $40 or $1000 is a relief. Thanks Mr president.

    December 24, 2011 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  13. Robert Warner

    When it came to preserving Bush's tax cuts for the top 1%, republicans fought tooth and nail. When it's, for the other 99%, they said "Screw 'em"

    December 24, 2011 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  14. Carroll Boyd Jr. of Maryland

    I think the GOP is so bent on beating Obama on every issue that they are willing to throw the American people under the bus to win.

    December 24, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  15. tracy

    No Bonehead Boehner, it's bcuz you and those stupid zombies standing behind you thought just saying "NO" woulld work for 4 years. Which one of u genius' came up with dumb idea.

    December 24, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  16. Danielle Sager

    The Republicans don't represent the middle class or working Americans! They care too much about the wealthy and big business! They also don't represent the diversity present in real America! The Payroll Tax showdown proved this. Obama for 2012, Yes We Can and Yes We Will!!!

    December 24, 2011 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  17. Jasie

    But just look how much he just added to the deficit.

    December 24, 2011 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  18. ibraheem

    Obama is a great president.

    December 24, 2011 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  19. rob

    The republican wanted to see the president fail. The only failure goes to the republican. they made a fool out of themselve anD leave Boenher holding the bag

    December 24, 2011 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  20. DebbE

    I listen to the bashing of Obama and it sounds to me like children fighting and not mature individuals. Either the good economy or the failure of a bill. Is not the fault of one person, it is every person in the government of the UNITED STATES. Work Together.

    December 24, 2011 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  21. fed up with dc

    So what, 2% of my $10 per hour wage in my pocket is going to make everything all better? Let's make every one of the so-called reresentatives of the people live like we have to. $400 per week, with taxes taken out, then housing, car payment, car and health insurance, utilities, food, school supplies for the kids, and all other bills that show up, for at least 2 months. Believe that would open some eyes on both sides.

    December 24, 2011 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  22. Steve-Illinois

    "Jobs campaign" What a joke! Next time you vote for President, if you are hoping for a better economy, and job creation, make sure the guy you vote for to create these jobs, has actually held a job at some point in his life!

    December 24, 2011 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  23. fed up with dc

    And by the way, let Obama pay for his own vacation and travel expenses. Either that or let me take a trip on the taxpayers dime, also.

    December 24, 2011 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  24. SnehGbe

    I say, this Mitch McConnell guy is a CRY BABY; he dishes it out, but he can't take it...lol! Now, he is charging that GRIDLOCK exists because Obama talks stuff about the Republican Congress. All this, while he is calling the Presidnt "a failure" in the same breath! Then factor in all the "names" they've called Obama! Now, I am LMAO!
    Mitch and his troops just got their butt kicked in the political arena, let him just shut up and try to be a good boy, next time...lol!

    December 24, 2011 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
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