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. B Obama

    Not sure how this is a victory for Obama. The Republicans were looking for a full year extension of the payroll tax cut, instead of the Democrats 2 month extension.

    More liberal media spin...

    December 23, 2011 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  2. JJ

    Obama -is- the champion of the middle class. Not one single member of the republican party or the teagagger movement can so much as imagine that they can fill those shoes, and because of that they don't have the ability to hand anyone any "chance" to do that.. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

    December 23, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  3. Tim

    What a joke the left wing media has become. Obama has nothing to run on but class warfare and the media is all in. By the way the House Republicans have sent 15 job creating bill to the Senate and Mr. Reid has not even brought one of them to the floor. We never hear about this on CNN???????

    December 23, 2011 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  4. Pappione

    "When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."
    ...
    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty."
    How many voters can even tell you who Benjamin Franklin was?! Darn shame!

    December 23, 2011 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  5. Tstacey30

    The Republican leaders are just delusional and completely out of touch with the realities that everyday Americans are faced with, all in the name of putting someone from their party in the White House. But I personally thank Mr. Boehner for his generous contribution to the Obama Administration this past week by giving them the opportunity to show that our current POTUS truly does believe in what's right for our country. Even Mr. Trump has seen the light and ended his affiliation with those misfits.

    December 23, 2011 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  6. Tyler

    There is no such thing as capitol hill looking out for the average citizen. Its a constant battle between staying in office and pleasing the Banks and Corporations. That is what controls the government.

    December 23, 2011 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  7. Jammaster

    Hopefully the TEA party will now allow our elected President to do is job and stop the obstruction.

    December 24, 2011 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  8. Tewrobert

    The only reason they passed it was so they could go have their holiday...They aint kidding anyone, What a joke..pathetic, nothing but a game and they will play it but not on their holiday time.......

    December 24, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  9. Jariv

    That is bull. Democrats in the Senate and president Obama, all they want is to get President Obama re-elected. The senate bill was not a good idea and knew that the house would not accept something like that. Democrats are finding a way to push the house so they can make people think that the President is looking for their well being when he is not. I hope people are more intelligent than they are. Of course he is counting on the not well educated to get him re-elected as well.

    December 24, 2011 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  10. Richard Samon

    He outfoxed himself this time. He asked for a years extension and his Democrat controlled Senate gave him two months and the House Republicans gave him a year. How stupid can you be to think this was a victory for this clown?

    December 24, 2011 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  11. bubba

    I really don't care what the Payroll Tax means to the Prisident, as much as I care what it means to me and my fellow Americans. Washington (and CNN) forgets that all this political grandstanding affects everyday working people and those looking for work. Stop patting yourselves on the back and start working in the best interest of the American people – that goes of all of congress and the President.

    December 24, 2011 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  12. LuciousLB

    Wow, poor Richard from Rhode Island (mentioned in the story). Instead of $40 each month for an ENTIRE YEAR to buy his much needed home heating oil as the Republicans were pushing for he gets $40 each month 2 WHOPPING MONTHS with the help of his good buddy Obama. Way to go Obama. I'd rather have a guarantee of $80 in my pocket over a 2 month period than $480 in my pocket guaranteed over an entire year. Yes, what a wonderful thing you've done in helping all of us "Mr. President".... Have less money in our pocket over the long run.

    December 24, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  13. Richard Samon

    He ioutfoxed himself!! You call this a victory? He asked for a years extension of the payroll tax deduction, gets two years from the Democrat controlled Senate, but a year from the House. How stupid do they think people are?

    December 24, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  14. Anonymous

    It's bull... that he's looking for a pat on the back, and to take a "moral victory". He should be solving the economic crisis, not trying to win small victories making people believe he is on their side. Just grow some onions and really be on their side. Please don't tell us it's raining, when we really know what's going on!

    December 24, 2011 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  15. SPQR

    God bless The United States of America.

    President Obama 2012 !

    If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks…will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered…. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs. – Thomas Jefferson in the debate over the Re-charter of the Bank Bill (1809)

    December 24, 2011 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  16. Jose

    The same middle class that he just helped, its the same middle class that will pay for his all expense taxpayer paid vacation to Hawaii this xmas!. 8 millions dollars! really?! and he tells the Republicans that they are out of touch?!! what a hypocrite! For those that are going to come back and say that he will pay for his lodging? I know that, but the taxpayers are paying for Air Force one, security, personnel to travel with him, hotel for the security teams! Come on people wake up! This guy is taking you for a ride. With YOUR $$$$$ He should have stayed in Washington and spent Xmas there to show that he was saving money for the taxpayer specially in these tough economic times. This guy needs to go.

    December 24, 2011 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  17. Rick Ross

    A two month extension... And now on the campaign trail Obama will say 'I kept your taxes low – see?' Good god we've become a nation of idiots.

    December 24, 2011 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  18. Tony

    Please with this crap....Champion of the middle class...Garbage...All this over a meager 2 month extension and a Lousy $160.00??? I know who the author of this article is voting for...

    December 24, 2011 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  19. dara

    Charles Dickens was a fighter for the middle class in Victorian England and was enraged by the way money drove people to greed and corruption without a care for child labor dangers- only 20% of children were educated. It took brave people to care about the welfare of the population. Taking care of the world is our only job on Earth. "My business was humanity!" -Marley, A Christmas Carol.

    December 24, 2011 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  20. Zutroy

    Seriously??? Obama on the side of working Americans – "literally"??!!?? Is this journalism or pure propaganda? The House Republicans were pushing to extend this tax cut for an entire year, not a ridiculous 2 months so the issue has to be re-debated and put at risk of not passing again. If Obama were really standing with working Americans, he would have pushed for the year extension now.

    December 24, 2011 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  21. Arbour

    So Obama is fighting for the "working Americans", but not George W Bush for his many tax cuts for the middle class?

    December 24, 2011 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  22. Greg

    Let's not tax the rich, it wil be a job killer. Let's see, the Bush tax cuts still in place, where are all the jobs from the past 3 years????? Just another line used by the Republicans to help the rich who the support.

    December 24, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  23. Robert

    Funny how the libs want lower taxes for this one thing......how about lower taxes for all stuff......ya know, less government spending?

    December 24, 2011 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  24. Barry

    Oh great Barry gets his Christmas present at the cost of taxpayers. Why can we have true conservative Republicans in Congress fighting this!

    December 24, 2011 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  25. cosmo

    Im so happy for him.. Its one for the Gipper.

    December 24, 2011 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
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