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. Gabriel Hernandez

    Let's remember who put the US in this problem in the first place!!!Republicans!!! And now the Party of NO! NO! NO! and NO! On everything that the President is trying to pass to improve the economy, in which is not getting us out of this problem. This guy is trying to lay the blame on the President. PLEASE!!! You really need to stop. The only thing that the Republicans are worry about is that they have to raise taxes on their Bosses the 1%.

    December 24, 2011 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  2. mookie

    Keep smiling Ronald McDonald, your doing a great job!

    December 24, 2011 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  3. kemoore

    Is anybody really fooled by all of this? Congress creates a "crisis" and the media bombards us with stories of how gloom and doom are coming because of it. Then, miraculously, at the last possible minute, crisis averted, and Congress and the President are suddenly heroes, saving all from certain destruction. Wait a month, repeat.

    It's getting pretty old. Vote them ALL out, and elect representatives who do their job – listen to the people who elected them. And if those newbies don't listen – just keep throwing them out of office until we get someone in there is does.

    December 24, 2011 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  4. Willy Brown

    Obama is only doing what the white liberals tell him to do. He's owned.

    December 24, 2011 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  5. Doctor Cool

    No wonder our Government is Dysfunctional. CNN and the rest of the media Praises the party that neglected their duty to budget their spending on a yearly basis.

    December 24, 2011 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  6. Jim

    Interesting how spin works. It was the House Republicans who first introduced a bill that provided a one year extension to the social security tax cut. It was the Senate who refused the terms of the bill and returned a compromise bill that cut the extension down to 2 months. The fight is NOT over the tax cut, it's a fight over KEYSTONE XL vs a wealth surchage tax. Obama's own administration states the two month extension will just create more churn and kick the can down the road. The House and Senate still had a week to battle this thing out, but instead compromised just to have another highly publicized protracted battle in the news in late January and February, and so they could go home for Christmas. If Obama can turn this to his advantage he is a political genius. Oh wait, the media is on his side to help him spin this thing. Let's speak the full truth CNN.

    December 24, 2011 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  7. nick

    Whoops. Did I sign on to the DNC website by mistake? The CNN cheer-leading for Obama starts once again.

    December 24, 2011 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  8. Jim Bob

    All republicans are white trash.

    December 24, 2011 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  9. Justin

    Has anyone thought to ask Mr. Obama why $40 is suddenly a matter of life and death to so many Americans? Anyone? Could it be the outrageous fuel prices driven up by his drilling moratorium? Could it be the outrageous food prices driven up by his inflationary policies? Perhaps it's the persistent unemployment exacerbated by his anti business policies. No, I don't expect that CNN or Barbara Walters or any of the other lackeys will think to ask that.

    December 24, 2011 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  10. Gabriel Hernandez

    Let's remember who put the US in this problem in the first place!!!Republicans!!! And now the Party of NO! NO! NO! and NO! On everything that the President is trying to pass to improve the economy, in which is not getting us out of this problem. This guy is trying to lay the blame on the President. PLEASE!!! You really need to stop. The only thing that the Republicans are worry about is that they have to raise taxes on their Bosses the 1%. :)

    December 24, 2011 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  11. lagunalad

    Clearly the GOP does not want to win the 2012 Presidential election, why waste everyones time.

    December 24, 2011 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  12. Working stiff

    Cnn's distorted portrail of the republicans opposition to the payroll tax cut is pitiful.

    December 24, 2011 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  13. Leopold

    And we know who Ms. Yellin is rooting for. The political effect will be transient. The economy remains in a shambles and will be weak when Mr. Obama faces the voters next November. He was exciting and new three years ago but he can no longer run on that. He will have to resort to negative campaigning and the charade that he is a champion of the middle class.

    December 24, 2011 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  14. ej

    The ease at which people forget is astounding to me. The President has been working for and speaking on behalf average Americans since day one. Its just that the GOP's own anti-Obama voice has been very loud, distracting, and dishonest...

    December 24, 2011 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  15. Doctor Cool

    Without doing any calculations I can surmise that Implementing a two month extension then a

    ten month extension (= one year) will cost more in administrate fees . Than just

    Implementing a one year extension to start with. Another example of Democrats wasting money

    for Obama's Political Theater.

    December 24, 2011 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  16. Penn

    Wait a minute... why are democrats celebrating a victory with a two-month extension while the house republicans wanted to extend the break for a year? Wouldn't the full-year tax break benefit most American taxpayers more? And Boehner is correct that the economy would have benefited more from the full-year cut as the "market" (employers) would have felt more comfortable making hiring decisions due to the perceived, higher stability of a full-year deal.

    December 24, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  17. Michael

    What is the issue here? Are you saying that the Republicans should not have supported the bill? Politicans need to realize that it is the people that elect them and it is the people that matter, not just the ones with influence.

    December 24, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  18. fact0012

    Have you given it, even a benefit a a doubt, that there is a better cause than politics, that the president really cares for the people? Or it is politics but nothing for you? Even a benefit of a doubt? that this is more than politics

    December 24, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  19. i dont think so

    What is our great nation becoming?? Looks like serious weakness...we need real leaders not the BS we have now

    December 24, 2011 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  20. fact0012

    Have you given it, even a benefit of a doubt, that there is a better cause than politics, that the president really cares for the people? Or do you think everything is for politics for all? Maybe not. Even a benefit of a doubt? that this is more than politics

    December 24, 2011 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  21. ThinkAgain

    In plain language: House Republicans threatened to default on our nation's debt, which resulted in our credit being downgraded (the first time in history!), all in the name of not raising taxes on the rich.

    These same Republicans, by trying to block the payroll tax cut extension, did everything they could to raise taxes on 161 million average Americans.

    It's as clear as day that Republicans care about the rich, regardless of the harm it may cause our country and her people.

    Please remember this when you vote on November 6, 2012, which side the Republicans are on (hint: Unless you're a 1% It's not yours).

    Obama/Biden 2012

    December 24, 2011 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  22. Guest in IL

    What do you mean “play?” “President Obama is the champion of the middle class!”

    December 24, 2011 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  23. JustDad

    The values of CNN's writers has fallen into murky waters, leaving mainstream America wondering ,"who writes this crap?' me and my friends are pretty well read on Obama and congresses quagmire, and the long and short of it is the one year deal would have been better for establishing some simblance of stability for at least the one year. Two months is an accounting nightmare for most small to medium size businesses. What a joke! Two months? And the president is dumb enough to support this. Hey I have an idea why not pass budgets for the US military on a two month by two month basis? Make yo feel real secure wouldn't it? "well have money to keep'em flyin' this month, but not next, " What a bunch of idiots, but at least the Tea Party was smart enough to shoot for a one year deal. Obama and his party have'nt even got the cajones to pass a budget for the past three flamin years. Idiots.

    December 24, 2011 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  24. Rob

    There he goes sounding like the man I voted for. Obama just remember this is how we want our leader to act. When you act this way only those without heads nodd with approval.

    December 24, 2011 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  25. astounded by the masses

    r u kidding me – we have an empty suit along the lines of bozo-the-clown for president – please, can SOMEONE tell me what he has done for this country? Please...

    December 24, 2011 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
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