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. Scotty

    The republicans wanted the cut for one year, Obama wanted it for two months, which one wanted more for the middle class......idiots.

    December 23, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  2. Bobby Baines

    I like that someone stood up for us, but at what cost?

    December 23, 2011 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  3. V.G.John

    how this is Obama's victory? He and his party did just the opposite of what they have been preaching. At least some of us don't have the Alzheimers.

    December 23, 2011 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  4. MaryM

    Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all. Just a thought for this Holiday season, in the end we are Americans and we need to work TOGETHER AND COMPROMISE for a better America.

    December 23, 2011 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  5. Leon

    Divide and conquer rather than lead. If he was doing his job he wouldn't need a billion dollar campaign war chest. Three years into the job and he still doesn't know what he's doing.

    December 23, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  6. bullock w

    I am belived that people loved play games vote for presdient obama

    December 23, 2011 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  7. MJ

    Yes fourty dollars a week matters that why it should have been extended for a year like the house wanted to do & not just two months

    December 23, 2011 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    What we have, is a Chicago Mob government, and it is taking over the country.

    The media is concealing a LOT of things that the Obama administration is doing, and the people had better start paying attention, or you are going to get a Democratic Party dictatorship in America, and freedom will be nothing but a memory.

    December 23, 2011 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  9. Republican who supports President Obama

    What further proof do we need to know that the GOP really do care about the middle and lower classes than what had transpired over the past few weeks. They fought so hard last year to keep a tax break for the rich but they wanted to cut unemployment assistance and the payroll tax holiday. I guess the Norquvist pledge is only written to protect the weathly and influential.

    The common citizen won today (if only for 2 months). The GOP is a total train wreck and failure – too much focus on obstruction will not win you any votes.

    December 23, 2011 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  10. trico

    Good Job Obama....Hang tough for another 11 months..

    December 23, 2011 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  11. LuizC

    A two month payroll tax cut is a major victory? How desperate can you get?

    December 23, 2011 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  12. Rigoman33

    How many folks are REALLY paying attention to this story this week?? Seriously? I asked a couple of colleagues about it and they were more concerned if I had my Christmas shopping done rather than worry about some payroll tax they don't even tangibly see every week. My guess is this will be a distant memory come new years. Bring on the pumpkin pie!!

    December 23, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  13. Lorraine

    Excuse me, CNN. As a member of the lower middle class – the prez just ensured I would be penalized if I buy a house anytime soon.

    A new tax on the middle class who are trying to afford a home. What did Obama care about any potential homeowner. He just traded a kick the can down the road payroll tax cut (that still must be figured out and determined as to whether or not we truly can afford to keep it) for a NEW tax on all future mortgage holders.

    And the harm of it all – that CNN doesn't want to report to voters – is this new MORTGAGE TAX never goes away. It is permanent. Month after month, year after year – because of Obama's inability to balance a budge – new mortgage owners PAY A TAX. What kind of "leadership" is that? Just a shell game, Mr. Obama. Not a solution. Not a plan. Not a danged thing fiscally responsible. In any of it.

    December 23, 2011 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  14. Tst4Eco

    Um, Sen. McConnell, isn't it Congress' duty to turn our nation's economy around with compromise and working together to get people back to work? Please, please, please remember your promises from the last election and start introducing bills that will help turn the economy around that everyone can get behind, Republicans and Democrats.

    December 23, 2011 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  15. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    When Congress reconvenes next year, Democrats will present a clean bill for an up or down vote. If Republicans even TRY to attach any of their poison pills to it, the President will just call them out till they relent (AGAIN).

    President Obama will try HARD to get the full year's tax cut implemented before addressing the pipeline deal.

    December 23, 2011 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  16. Tony

    It's good to see him happy. He deserves it. He's done an oustanding job.

    December 23, 2011 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  17. Michelle

    It means 0bama is good at playing political gimmicks and tricks. We should definitely vote out this disgusting person in 2012!

    December 23, 2011 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  18. Spock500

    Indeed. These pitiful House Republicans practically impaled themselves on a fork.

    December 23, 2011 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  19. The Blight

    Yup, yup, yup and yup. But as the R's asked, how are we going to pay for it? With part of my future retirement funds?

    December 23, 2011 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  20. POTUS 44, Champion of the Middle Class!

    He's got my vote - PERIOD!

    December 23, 2011 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  21. amarjeet

    I just heard that GOP & Tea Party majority Congress passed the Bill of Pay Roll Extension in less than 5 minutes. American people must note that 160 Millions of American were to be axed by GOP & Tea Party in just 5 minutes. You can well appreciate the GOP & Tea Party agenda & further politics for 2012 Presidential election & where Americans will go after voting for republican & Tea Party which is not discernible but to be decided by American with their & national interests in view. How much mature & responsible GOP & Tea Party leadership are in Congress. 12/23/2011.

    December 23, 2011 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  22. Republican who supports President Obama

    This President has my vote.

    A message to the GOP in office – sour apples do not get picked. I encourage any registered Republican to take a look at what has transpired since January 2009 and you will figure out that the GOP has done everything they could to obstruct & derail anything the President or the Democrats proposed. Have they worked for us? Have they negotiated in good faith? Have they offered anything that made sense? No, No, and NO!

    Why did they attach a pipeline proposal (well ahead of the EPA assessment) to a tax extension bill?
    Why couldn't they just submit the tax bill?
    Why can't they see the withdrawl of troops from Iraq as a good thing?
    Why couldn't they come up with more than 16 pages for the healthcare reform act – but complain when the Dem's bill was much more comprehensive?
    Why did they fight to a tax break for the wealthly and ask for nothing in return (guarantee of new hires or something equivalent)?

    December 23, 2011 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  23. Joe, San Diego

    The House Speaker behaving like a temperamental school girl... seriously this could have been avoid months ago had the Republicans focused on what the President was asking noooo that waited until Friday 23DEC2011 to agree talk about wanting to seem celebrity-like with their dramatic speeches and group pics rallying together like a high school sports pic.
    Honestly if the co-workers behaved like this at any other job they would have either a terrible annual review or terminated.
    Just like the Republican presidential candidates, had they been interviewing for any other job they would not get hired let along continued interviews whew. I aim to allow President Obama two terms like Bush.

    December 23, 2011 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  24. PAST THE "AMERICAN JOBS ACT" NOW!!!!!!!

    The President and the Democrats should tie the rest of the "The Middle Class Tax Cuts" to The American Jobs Act, and dare the Tea Party to voted it down. The debate should be about closing the income equality and use Willard Mitt Romney as the example of corporate greed that layoff thousands of people so he can collect 13 millions a year from Bain Capitol to retire. "One man's greed can lead to thousands to suffer".

    December 23, 2011 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  25. Nana1954

    It means Air Force One will be using tax dollars to fly his highness to the queen lying on the Hawaiin beaches all on taxpayer money – twice

    December 23, 2011 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
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