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. david

    Rep stink!

    December 24, 2011 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  2. Kent

    Every time you think you have President Obama on the ropes, you find that the right's only strategy of disagree with "THE BLACK GUY!" gets them caught in their own web. Negotiate and stall did not work for them this time. Doubt it ever works again.

    December 24, 2011 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  3. Nick

    This is crap, the GOP plan would have created more jobs and would have set in stone those tax cuts for the middle class for an entire year, not some 2 month extension.

    There is no reason to not let any business, even oil companies, thrive during a recession like this. Keep your Fing change, I want the whole dollar.

    December 24, 2011 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  4. Beni

    Hahahaha, Republicans are clowns, look at them, I wouldn't vote for them if they were running against Kim Jong, hahahaha.

    December 24, 2011 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  5. albertaridge

    Common guys the universities are not for everyone these days, it is very costly just accept, only alternative now is something called High Speed Universities where you pay much much less but get degree faster

    December 24, 2011 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  6. d

    He has been the champion for all...it is the gop that is not. btw it is congress not the president alone that should be working on the economy...not by doing away with regulations either. can they not put just a little effort into their jobs?

    December 24, 2011 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  7. PJinChicago

    The Republicans could have easily flanked themselves with average Americans who told their story about how $1,000 is really important to them, and that going through all this mess for a measly $160 is ridiculous. They would look as ridiculous as this President does; politicizing the entire mess his policies helped create. Party at my house this coming November. Bye bye Barrack.

    December 24, 2011 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  8. Eli

    Come on CNN–Mr. Obama went on his 20th vacation with a 44% approval.

    December 24, 2011 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  9. Obd

    This just in: President Obama blamed House Republicans for it being cold and dark this Winter. "What I wan to know", he said, "Is why they are against the Middle Class being warm? I have a plan in place to fix this problem in just 6 months!"

    December 24, 2011 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  10. trulyamazing123

    Obama played the House like a fiddle, they might just as well send out an official notice: "...Obama fought for the working man and demanded we approve this bill...what a great President!"

    December 24, 2011 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Way to go Mr President. I'm voting for you for a second term 2012-2016 because I'm a struggling middle class who truly believes in fairness. Merry Christmas to the entire administration. Keep up the good work everyone!

    December 24, 2011 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  12. GODZILLA1

    An OOPS moment for the GOP. OBAMA ON TO VICTORY.

    December 24, 2011 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  13. BeverlyNC

    Of course it is short-term – it is a 2 month extension. President Obama asked for a year long extension from the beginning but Republicans only obstruct not produce anything sensible. So Democrats negotiated the 2 month extension and then Boehner whined he wouldn't vote for it because it was not for 1 year. Republican games to make sure nothing gets done for the People. Now we have to play more wasteful useless games due to Republican incompetence in 2 monhs. It's time we stand up and clean the House of all Republicans in 2012. They don't work for the People. They just obstruct and make sure nothing gets done to help the nation recover. Enough of these non-leaders.

    December 24, 2011 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  14. Joe

    Play? He IS the champion of the middle class.

    December 24, 2011 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  15. Roger

    "A champion of the middle class" who then flies off to Hawaii at taxpayer expense. Nice job, CNN, of doing what you do best: being a sycophantic stooge for Obama.

    December 24, 2011 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  16. Tom Hartman

    Yeah these are the same Republicans that are against Health Care, because they get theirs for free lol
    Forty dollars is meaningless to them.

    December 24, 2011 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  17. omegarising

    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.

    More of the same lying bullcrap from Barry..Hey Barry, how about dealing with REAL issues like how we have become a police state run by tyrannical criminals! Oh wait...because you're one of them.

    Hey CNN, why don't you quite reporting trivial drivel and report on the real news like how are freedoms and liberties have been all but destroyed? Oh that's right, because you're bought and paid for by the global elite.

    December 24, 2011 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  18. Johnny Five

    It means that he is hoping more idiots will vote for him.

    December 24, 2011 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  19. aceblazin

    Go Obama!

    December 24, 2011 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  20. Matt

    The way the news media reports this issue, there is no way for Obama to come out badly.

    The fact is, Obama wanted the tax cut to be short-term so that he could revoke it at some point. But business needs it long-term to hire people. If Obama was really interested in jobs, he would have been "laser-focused" more than a couple years ago.

    December 24, 2011 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  21. joe

    Okay, he shuts down the pipeline – 20,000 middle class jobs. Shutting down 72 power plants – thousands o f middle class jobs. With just half a brain you can see past the b.s. Get ready for your power bill to "necessarily go up". That's an Obama quote. And just how does that help any American no matter what "Class" they're in?

    December 24, 2011 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  22. jose

    This is Amirica! The land of freedom and oppertunities and dreams, NOT the land of republicans.

    December 24, 2011 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  23. Sebastian

    Wasn't the entire reason that Republicans wanted to alter the payroll tax extension was so that it could be extended for 1-year versus the current 2-month extension? This seems more like a political dog and pony parade than any kind of real progress. I think there may be a lot of people that percieve this a win for Obama in the Dems VS Rep game, but I see it as a loss for the American people and a failure of the political system.

    December 24, 2011 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  24. The Left Wing

    I wonder if the Republicans will come back for more in the next two months. Is there a way they can repackage their opposition to a middle class tax cut that the broader electorate wouldn't find objectionable? The usual tactic of bundling all sorts of other things in the bill that the Democrats don't like didn't work this time. They wouldn't try the same trick again, or would they?

    December 24, 2011 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  25. Jake

    Good job Mr President for sticking to your word. Thank you. Now go get them rebublicans in 2012 and show them how its done the correct way. Obama 2012.

    December 24, 2011 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
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