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. ATL Guy

    Kick them good while they're down.

    December 23, 2011 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    The Tea Party is destroying the Republican Party form the inside out. The fight over the payroll tax cut extension gave the Tea Party caucus to personify everything that the President has been saying about the Republican Party as a whole.

    December 23, 2011 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  3. Lisa

    Problem is - the president stands right there with the House GOP. He's no more for working Americans than they are. If he truly were in support of working Americans – the middle class – the change he promised during his campaign would be taking place.

    Let's see what happens with the XL Pipeline. However, as it stands now, it's just business as usual on the Hill.

    December 23, 2011 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  4. geotigg

    Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes!!!!!

    President Obama has FINALLY made his position functional.The Grand Old Panderers position is the real political opportunism. They have made it clear, repeatedly, that they don't want thispresident to succeed. He has FINALLY found a way to expose them, in total, as the fraudsters that they are. They CLAIM to be working for average Americans, and they CONSTANTLY fail to do so.

    THANK YOU Mr President, for FINALLY finding a way to expose the G.O.P. for the two face schmucks that they are!!!

    December 23, 2011 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  5. dennis

    This article is complete fiction. Obama won nothing. The people lost the opportunity to have a full year tax break, in exchange for a 2 month extension. This bill creates no jobs. It is nothing more than paid vacation to Hawaii for the President and his wife who probably wanted to go the Spanish Rivera, and rent another $350,000 a day private mansion on the beach instead. Note how CNN praises Obama, but piles dung on the Republicans. Oh well, everyone knows CNN is the major outlet of choice for the Democrat party. CNN is a propaganda machine for ultra left wing radicals.

    December 23, 2011 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  6. T'sah from Virginia

    With the high cost of "everything," $40 helps – that's $40 times 2 each month.

    Obama 2012 – Because "[He's] a warrior for the middle class" and "[He's] happy to fight for working Americans."

    MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

    December 23, 2011 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  7. Chris

    A front running Republican candidate is unable to get enough signature to get on the ballot? People realize the Republicans are nothing more than self-serving jerks that don’t care about anything other than their own wealth. Restores my faith in America!

    December 23, 2011 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  8. gt

    victory...?..no jobs ... house value down 20%.. 70 % country says on wrong track...401 down 20%... victory,,, lol...

    December 23, 2011 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  9. Keith in Austin

    Give us a break CNN! If pilfering the needed funds to keep Social Security solvent for a lousy two months is a victory for Bozo, God help our Country and future retirees! Please remember to report on the true colors of Liberal Democrats when they refuse to negotiate again in less than 8 short weeks! PS Harry Reid's lecture about compromise to Congressional Freshmen was so touching today as well. Hollow words coming from a political weasel that locked his doors to Republicans while cramming Obamacare down our throats! Just more disgusting Washington hypocrisy!!

    December 23, 2011 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  10. Sanity

    I agree with Obama. Let's cut taxes by 30%. I'm sure he'll tell Reid and Pelosi to draft the bills.

    December 23, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  11. Lee

    Sounds like we may get a 2nd term with the antichrist at the helm.

    December 23, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  12. navyboyp

    Silly how the congressional republicans blame the whole economy demise on president Obama when in actuality it was Former President Bush who messed things up. Did they forget about him???

    December 23, 2011 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  13. Four and The Door

    But the Social Security Trust Fund is sure an interesting place for Obama to siphon off for his bribe money. So far he got away with a couple months of it. Thankfully I am not counting on it for my retirement. But that doesn't make what he's doing right. So many people out there really need this program. It could actually work if the politicians would keep their paws off of it. Is there anyone even running that you could trust to leave that alone?
    Romney 2012.

    December 23, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  14. Ann

    the Republicans shot themselves in the foot over and over again in the last six months. First, by defending extending tax cuts to the uber-wealthy, also known to that broken record John Boehner as job creators. Of course, no one truly believes that these people are job creators because they have failed to create jobs even with the massive tax cut they have received for years. And now they tried to make the rest of us believe that eliminating a tax increase to the rest of us is actually in our best interest. The first time I heard this line of thinking, I almost had to pull to the side of the road because I was laughing so hard. This fight is the Republicans to lose. And lose they will if they keep up this nonsense.

    December 23, 2011 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  15. AverageAmerican

    Mr. Obama is still the only grown-up in the room.

    December 23, 2011 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  16. tony

    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."

    Where have the "Job Creators" been for the last 10 years their obscenely lowered taxes Mr. O'Connell?

    December 23, 2011 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  17. Larry L

    This is a victory because once again the Republicans showed their true colors – lap-dogs for the rich. They never support the working people of America and President Obama continues to serve as the strongest advocate for working families.

    December 23, 2011 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  18. FIELD1stSGT

    You have to be sick if you think this will buy him the Presidency.

    December 23, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  19. International_Bro

    Both sides are playing the blame game however Obama just won this round. I do find it funny that Speaker Bohener said Obama failed to turn the economy around. All Obama has really is exec. Orders and veto pen. It's the job of Congress to Legislate and put forth policy that could turn the economy around.

    December 23, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  20. Indy

    "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." said Mitch McConnell

    Or could it be that Mitch McConnell and Republicans made a party pledge to destroy the Obama Presidency and they do not care who they take along on the ride, and lets not forget who caused the whole thing (GW) It must take very tiny cajones to say we didn't want to help the middle class because we blame Obama for everything and therefore we can't help you, but if your a millionaire we will give you everything you want even though it is Obamas fault he extended the Bush tax cut. McConnell is gettting fired soon !

    December 23, 2011 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. Chuck

    Reason 562, as to why the repubes are hosed in 2012

    December 23, 2011 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  22. Bushper

    way to go President Obama and the Democrats. It is time for the gloves to come off. Get it.

    December 23, 2011 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  23. Bushper

    The American middle class is seeing time and again that President Obama is out fighting for them everyday while the GOP is fighting for their Wall Street and Big Bussiness bosses.

    December 23, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  24. navin johnson

    Of course Obama will win in 2012. There are no SERIOUS contenders running against him.

    December 23, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  25. Bushper

    Thank God the party without a heart, the GOP in imploding before our eyes. That's all I want for christmas.

    December 23, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
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