Analysis: Why payroll is more than a short-term victory for Obama
December 23rd, 2011
06:56 PM ET
2 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. nintex

    Anyone with half a brain can see that President Obama is for all Americans, especially those that are struggling in the middle and lower class. I don't know where the conservative posters get their message that the country is going down the toilet and President Obama is the worst president in history – oh, yes now I remember – I wish they'd turn off the fat fool on the radio and get their heads out of their behinds and pick up a newspaper or magazine and read some facts for a change. It would be refreshing to hear some truth from the right side.

    December 23, 2011 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. hollis greenidge

    republicans are playing dirty politics and they do not give a damn about poor people. They complain about everything Obama does but they give no solutions . In the mean time America burns to the ground .

    December 23, 2011 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. usualone

    The Republicans ran on jobs in 2010; where are they? They want President Obama to lose at all costs, which means they care more about their party than the average American citizen. They won't pass a small tax on the rich who earn over $1M but they want to not give the middle class a small break. They have the nerve to say the President is contributing to the gridlock yet they throw stumbling blocks at him on every occasion. They won't accept people who he nominates for specific positions. They are responsible for the S&P dropping our rating. The candidates rattle about war with Iran. With this latest incident, I hope the American public remembers how obstructionist they are and not for the benefit of anyone..

    December 23, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  4. Bushper

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

    December 23, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  5. Obayashi

    The passing of the payroll tax cut and the unemployment benefit even though its is only two months, which President Obama and the democrats pushed hard is " like a bridge over troubled water." Just let the middle class cross this bridge over this economic situation and continue to hurdle till the end of 2012. Happy Holidays.

    December 23, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  6. SC

    These Republicans are stupid and funny at the same time. McConnell said "Obama failed on economy and the rest of crap...." How can these Republicans see SMALL BUSH as an angel? He screwed up this country in two terms he was handed over. Along the way, he fought a wrong war (i.e. Iraq war). You can't screw any worse than SMALL BUSH. You let SMALL BUSH to screw up in 8 long years (and GOP didn't see anything wrong with SMALL BUSH) and yet you expect Obama to fix everything in 3 & 1/2 years, given that what's currently going in Euro Zone has nothing to do with Obama. NOTE: What goes on in Euro Zone adds some uncertainty in the US economy and therefore, hinders economic growth in the US.

    December 23, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  7. emskadittle

    Way to go Mr. President, Way to show just how out of touch the teaparty republicans in the house really are. I will vote for you in November. Obama 2012!

    December 23, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  8. Little Jimmy Truth

    Obama, please tell all OWS-Obama supporters, "Go home!!!"

    December 23, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  9. Terry

    I hate to tell you Bozo libtards this, but the American people have notoriously short memories. In 3 weeks this episode will be forgotten by the few Americans who were paying attention. In spite of dumb opinions like this one, Obama will no longer be President in 2013 and Republicans will be in charge of the Senate. Americans have grown tired and frustrated with Obozo, Reid, Pelosi, etc.

    December 23, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  10. justin

    How very silly. This is taking money from our back pocket and putting in our front pocket. Anyone who understands payroll taxes knows the distinction between a tax table cut and a FICA/FMHI 'tax' cut. First of all, this is called a tax only becasue government can only mandate taxes. The funds given to us are our contributions to OUR government controlled retirement- social security and medicare. It does not reduce our income tax load at all. Now, if we believe the social security and medicare system is in trouble, collecting less money places it in bigger trouble. We, you and I, will have to pay that back OR work longer or collect less when we retire. Odd, how a win for a single man willing to play such a game with our retirements simply because he wishes to win an g election may be viewed as a win for him but, clearly, it is not for us. We are treated as ignorant citizens becasue in large part we either are or act as if we are. We get what we deserve. How or why we attach our loyalty and ourselves to people who worry about us only after taking care of himself baffles me. So...why did OWS sleep in tents? For this?

    December 23, 2011 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    "Why payroll is more than a short-term victory for Obama" Because the guy has been fighting for the common folks since day one but junk media like you keep on bringing him down!!

    December 23, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  12. Tom Mariner

    I agree – a great campaign victory. I am guessing that it was a combination of great spin from the Democratic side and a public relations disaster from the Republican. Still not sure how the Republicans sending a year of tax cuts to the Senate and Democrats cutting it to 60 days is a "victory for the middle class", but CNN is right - the public somehow believes it.
    Worse, they think the Republican House "caved" to the fierce rhetoric of an "in charge" President who until a week ago was uninvolved and antsy to get to Hawaii.

    Obama campaign - masterful. Republican challengers - good luck!

    December 23, 2011 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  13. Bushper

    With egg on their faces and public bit down, these GOP torn coats in congress have learned a hard lesson in POLITICS 101.

    December 23, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  14. D12345

    Just wondering....when did 50,000 become the norm for the "average American."

    That is the figure you would have to be earning to receive 40.

    This money is all reducing the amount available for social security...that's what the payroll tax is.

    Watch for the next installment...."hard choices..." raising retirement age....while young adult unemployment is still through the roof, reducing cost of living adjustments...etc.

    December 23, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  15. m

    If $40 per pay check is the difference between making it and not making it those people are in a world of hurt. It's almost insulting that the poor taxpayer has to grovel while those is Congress thumb their noises at these voters. What's worse is the money to pay for this tax cut is coming out of Social Security which will result in that trust fund running out of money sooner than projected. There is something wrong with this picture.

    December 23, 2011 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  16. Perry W

    If the republicans doesn't want to extend the unemployment insurance, why not just find them jobs. Isn't this what Obama is trying to do?

    December 23, 2011 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. dan

    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."

    We're still waiting for all the jobs promised with the extension of the Bush tax cuts, Sen. McConnell. Where are they? Not to be found, I guess. If there's any failure to turn around the economy, the GOP has as much responsibility for it as any other party. To say otherwise is just partisan nonsense.

    December 23, 2011 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  18. Charlie from the North

    Mr. President,

    The better you do at your job the better we all do, as an added political benefit the better you do your job the more those idiots who say you are not look like idiots.. It is kind of a "win/win situation. So America here is the deal: He is standing up for us now but he won't be unless we support him in the voting booth. So occupy whatever you think you need to now, but make sure come November you occupy the voting booth.

    December 23, 2011 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  19. diridi

    I vote for Obama. period.

    December 23, 2011 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  20. korkea aika

    Tea Party republicans are a minority group in the minority party. And they will do anything, even harm the country's economy, to defeat Obama. This boarders on treason.

    December 23, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  21. Eddie

    Thanks, you stupid Republicans!!!

    December 23, 2011 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  22. GrandpaWI

    ""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."

    Well "two-chins" McConnell, what exactly have you done to help the economy and this President? Second, weren't you the one who stated that the goal of the GOP is to "make this President a one-term President". Yes, I think so. So, when you take the two things together, you, Mr. McConnell haven't done squat. You and your party are the ones responsible for not sending bills to the POTUS to sign.

    You are not fooling anyone. The GOP's poll numbers have sunk into the teens! 19% approval rating. The Republican Party is done.

    December 23, 2011 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  23. bobcat2u

    Alright Mr. President, you finally got em on the ropes. Keep pounding now. Kill the body and the head will fall.

    December 23, 2011 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  24. LegendRx

    What is wrong with the republican leadership, From McConnell to the drunk speaker (Boehner) What? Come on people, the way in which he slur his words, red eyes and skin color . . . That duck is quacking. And those sudden outburst, "WE'RE BROKE" and, of course, my favorite, "PUT SOMETHING ON THE TABLE"! too funny. We see who is behind sabotaging this economy and it is not the president. Can you say, "the party of "No"? McConnell . . . By any means necessary, make Obama a one term President. We see what your Repubs are doing and we will take action come November 2012.

    December 23, 2011 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  25. Scotty

    How is this a win ! He's already said that as soon as they come back from their holiday they will work on extending it to one year. What a waste of time and money. These idiots are as usful as football bats.

    December 23, 2011 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
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