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. bc

    forty dollars makes him the champion of the middle class?!? LOL the middle class is worse off than I thought.

    December 23, 2011 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  2. chris

    So instead of what the lame stream media did with the Bush tax cuts....in which they demanded to know how we pay for it...

    Lets just call Obama champion of the middle class....lol

    Meanwhile, with this bill and his new trillion dollar spending bill, our dept to GDP has gone over 100 percent. Meaning all Americans who earn a check owe uncle sam 40,000 bucks. Each. But hey Barry, u go ahead and run on your 40 dollar tax cut.

    December 23, 2011 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    obama is the kind of leader we need to get america going in the right direction republicans take notes

    December 23, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  4. Uhhu

    Sure Obama is a hero, LMAO.

    December 23, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  5. Jim

    I dont see how its a win. The repubs wanted to give a tax break for a year...Obama wanted to give it to you for 2 months. 80 bucks ! big Flip ! 15 trillion dollar debt, 34 months of 8% or higher unemployment, and countless other problems...Time for him to go. I am an Independent and I will not be voting for this moon again ! Worse than Carter !

    December 23, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  6. RLA

    Yep the democrats pulled another fast one on the American public. They sold ice to Eskamos while the republicans couldn't sell water in a desert. Happy Holiday America

    December 23, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  7. jim cramer

    Is anyone seriously considering voting for this guy again?

    December 23, 2011 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  8. Republicans Proven to Hate Non Weealthy

    This proves thet the republicans hate the 99% of Amercians. The republicnas are goind down in the next election

    December 23, 2011 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  9. Elucidated1

    I still can't believe that the Republicans allowed the freshmen Tea Party Congressmen to wag the entire party for so long. If they can't come to some consenus soon, the GOP stupidity is going to allow the Democrats to keep the Senate and more of those house votes will be moving to the left. I guess promises to Grover Norquist are more important than winning in 2012.

    December 23, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  10. Steve

    I'm middle class and I don't need a "champion" or money given to me that is taken from someone else. I am perfectly capable of paying my own way. But I am a rare type apparently. When my industry down turned, I re-tooled myself into another one by taking a lower paying job (and quickly got back to where I was through hard work). I didn't sit back on unemployment waiting for my dead industry to come back and demand that rich people should pay for it.

    December 23, 2011 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  11. carrie

    agreed. republican look reallly dumb the other day.

    December 23, 2011 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  12. 66Biker

    Anyone who thinks that reductions to your F.I.C.A. contributions is a tax cut needs to do their homework and learn what F.I.C.A. stands for, and how it works. And I'm sorry, but that either includes the President or he is lying to you when he says it is a tax cut. Because reducing F.I.C.A. contributions is NOT a tax cut. It is a more like reducing your Social Security and Medicare insurance premiums, and while you may be saving a little money now by having 2% less taken out of your paychecks, you will be sorry latter when you need Social Security and Medicare to pay you more, specially if that is all you have to live on. So don't be fooled by this smoke and mirrors routine.

    December 23, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  13. Ed

    Rightly said.
    Obama is far from perfect.
    But at least he's trying.
    Contrast that with the Repubs (House esp but Senate too) who are spending so much effort to defeat him they stall the work of the government.

    December 23, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  14. robert leshman

    this is not a victory for obama.. this is a two month bridge to more bickering. please...enough already. liberals are killing this once great country.

    December 23, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  15. Joe Brown

    What it means is he can still win a fight. We weren't sure for a while.

    December 23, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  16. Russ

    The Republicans were exposed for what they are. Obstructionists!

    December 23, 2011 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  17. Timothy Brown

    Great! People (politicians) should work together at all times to do what is good for the American people. Lets not allow political views to interrupt getting something positive done. Thanks to all.

    December 23, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  18. robert leshman

    i wish cnn was a credible news source, but its not.

    December 23, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  19. zoundsman

    For those thinking 40 bucks is trivial, re-think! It's all relative-your 40 bucks may be what you drop at Starbucks every
    week, but for others, it's basic survival. Not hard to figure out.

    December 23, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  20. Rcike1949

    I am so glad the Prez and his family set an example for the rest of us. Paris, Hawaii, Martha's vineyard. Yup great example for the 99% of us.

    December 23, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  21. Raymond

    It looks more likely that Barack Obama will win a second term as President. This current bunch of GOP candidates look weak.

    December 23, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  22. gmt11

    I gotta tell ya....40 bucks does make a difference.

    December 23, 2011 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  23. BobPlanet

    Thanks Obama. I'm only sad that you won't be able to blow my $80 tax cut partying with Michelle and the kids on your 5th $multi-million vacation this year.

    December 23, 2011 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  24. Donna

    I wouldn't need a tax cut if my insurance premiums hadn't doubled. Thanks for nothing Obama.

    December 23, 2011 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  25. Joyce

    The GOP should have proposed to make it permanent. I have much more faith in how the general public would spend that money than how the government will.

    December 23, 2011 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
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