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. Charles W. Skinner

    You've got to be joking with this editorial piece. President Obama has done more DAMAGE to the process than could possibly be imagined. By having this fight, he has put the FICA "contribution" on the same level as ANY OTHER TAX, and opened it up to the same political games that can be played. The "sacred cow" of the Democrat Party was just slaughtered on Obama's altar to try to get him reelected. When we're having this debate again in 2 months, and Obama won't budge, I'll be waiting for the Conservatives to tell him to take a hike, because it will be HIS fault that the problem wasn't fixed for a year when the opportunity was provided by the Conservatives.

    December 24, 2011 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  2. Matt

    And this is one of the major reasons why our two political parties can't get along. If the Party holding out gives in for the greater good, they are seen as weak and the 'winning side' is given all the praise. We reward our elected officials for not budging, as opposed to compromising. Happens on both sides of the aisle, and is ridiculous every time.

    Honestly, can't we put that "flip-flop" thing to rest already? It was a cheap insult used by George W in his 2004 Election run, the fact it's remained prevalent in the political scene is sad.

    December 24, 2011 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  3. ARMYCSM

    House republicans, no-Rethuglican'ts have stood in the way of this president since Nov 2010. Offering no help, no compromise – Nothing! Nothing but a gang of rich a$$ Thugs hell bent on standing in the way of this president getting Americans back to work. One thing for sure, the old hateful people that sent them there will not be able to keep them there. 2012 is here! This phuck up is the knife they use cut off their own little foreskins. Tricks are for kids silly rich boys!! Just Saying

    December 24, 2011 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  4. jane cain

    It will be exciting in congress when the tax break for the wealthy is juxtaposed against the current background.

    December 24, 2011 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  5. Your Panties

    Okay, alright. I totally approve. It does not benefit me because I am not employed. I will sit here and enjoy my eggnog.
    Does everyone agree with me?

    December 24, 2011 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  6. chhooten

    I totally agree that the republicans lost strategically when they opposed the extension. Who knew that being against whatever the president is for isn't good politics? Hopefully they've learned their lesson. Compromise looks better than a standoff when you're ultimately going to have to fold.

    December 24, 2011 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  7. usatruth

    Republicans support for corporations that may NOT replenish jobs back to our economy.
    Democrats support for Corporations that DO replenish jobs back to the economy.
    That is the plain American Politics.

    December 24, 2011 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  8. Big Bird

    This is the narrative that the media is trying to paint; however, let me offer another perspective. After you throw out all the talk and bickering you're left with two bills. The Democrat controlled Senate passed a bill that extended tax cuts and unemployment benefits for 2 months. The Republican controlled House passed a bill that extended those same tax cuts and benefits by 12 months.

    What is Obama going to do in two months? He has no choice but to get a 12 month extension or he looks very bad for refusing the 12 month deal in December. If he does not get the extension he will lose in 2012. Republicans seem to have a lot of leverage going into the 2012 election. It's my opinion that Obama will have to ante up and offer some real concessions.

    December 24, 2011 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  9. Scoobiesnacks

    Only problem with this whole thing right now is.... Companies pay their payroll taxes quarterly (3 month cycles). Since this extention only guarantees 2 months, there is the potential for nightmares in payroll departments around the country. I only wish that government ( the idiots in congress and elsewhere) had a clue as to what life is really like. No lifetime pension, benefits, jobs. They spend hours everyday making speaches about nothing and moving as slow as possible on issues that affect real people.

    December 24, 2011 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  10. ctiizen20

    Why don’t we just borrow the money for the entire budget, and throw in social security and Medicare too? Stop the spending and stop tax cuts with borrowed money. Next election just vote no for any DC politician in office. Newly elected people couldn’t do any worse than this bunch. Kick the bums out!

    December 24, 2011 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  11. MICHAEL WHITE

    The Republicans didn't hand the president jack. You people here at CNN tried to argue if the Republicans don't approve the social security tax cut (not payroll, because payroll taxes are federal income taxes only), then they hand the president a victory, then you say if they do approve it, they still hand the president a victory. Talk about spin. Please. The Republicans did get one thing out of this: they did not cut taxes by increasing taxes. So HA!!! Those making over a million a year are not going to see a tax increase.

    December 24, 2011 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  12. Paul

    It's a two month victory for Obama, nothing more and nothing less. Fix it for the long term and then I will be impressed.

    December 24, 2011 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  13. MICHAEL WHITE

    In your article, an individual states,"If someone doesn't think that twelve gallons of heating oil is important". Heating oil is bad for the environment. This fool should be using an electric heater now-a-days.

    December 24, 2011 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  14. MICHAEL WHITE

    Another issue that needs to be addressed: If $40 is a make or break for someone, then that person needs to think about finding different work. I mean come on. I work for a janitorial service and my budget is tight, but if $40 is a make or break for me, then I need to get a better job. Or create a business to make more money. Congress should have allowed the social security tax to expire because it is taking money from the social security trust fund. I don't buy this non-sense that it won't hurt social security. You can't borrow your way out of debt.

    December 24, 2011 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  15. Madero

    Is the middle class stupid? NO. Is Obama the most DANGEROUS President in U.S. History? Yes. He acts withouts control and since re-election isn't possible how dangerouse will he be in 2013 and beyond?

    December 24, 2011 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  16. rick f

    Games, games, games. Its time to stop thinking along party lines and begin thinking independently. Make decisions based upon reason not party affiliation.

    December 24, 2011 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  17. Champ

    It's amazing how few grey hairs Obama has in that picture. We all know where the real obstruction lies. John Boehner makes Newt Gingrich look like...a respectable politician and a decent person. Wow.

    December 24, 2011 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  18. Honest Abe

    Hey Jessica,

    You are clueless. Obama is painting himself into a corner.

    If the Republicans are smart, they will separate the Unemployment and the fraudulent tax cut and say to the US taxpayer that they are robbing from Grandpa and Grandma if they pass another extension of the payroll tax.

    You see hack reporters like you are aiding and abetting hack politicians like Obama. THere is a truth, but hacks like you will never present it.

    You lying ass ba-itch.

    Honest Abe.

    December 24, 2011 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  19. Adeolu oyeniyiName

    The american's should stop guy and lessbian.

    December 24, 2011 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  20. dontbelievethehype/4Obamacampaign

    For God has written"for I will put thy enemies at your footstool"U see hiz eyes are watchin and he will unfold the truth before our eyes however that he may!we as people I feel must have a little more faith in God and not man. Just listen for him and .do our part in our own backyards what's right and just.

    December 24, 2011 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  21. A-a-brown

    Is good to pay taxe

    December 24, 2011 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  22. David

    Nonsense. We all see the truth here... its both a dysfunctional congress and a dishonest inept President.

    December 24, 2011 03:59 am at 3:59 am |
  23. David

    Nonsense. We all see the truth. It's both a dysfunctional Congress plus a dishonest and inept President.

    December 24, 2011 04:02 am at 4:02 am |
  24. Conan the Barbarian

    Your analysis is correct, but the reason that I am not hiring is that my cost of capital is too high.

    December 24, 2011 04:05 am at 4:05 am |
  25. papafritz57

    Mitch McConnell, a lizard in the clock of a human. What a waste of air this man is. I guess the good people of Kentucky are easily snookered and allowed themselves to believe McConnell gives a rat's patootie about them. He and his wife have become filthy rich in the government jobs and lobbyist connections and neither have done anything to ever help the middle class in any way. Never served his country in uniform, has done absolutely nothing for the middle and poorer class of Americans and has resolved to destroy our good and decent President making that his number one priority. This bum has gotten away with murder. Kentucky if you had any honor you'd throw him out.

    December 24, 2011 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
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