Analysis: Why payroll is more than a short-term victory for Obama
December 23rd, 2011
06:56 PM ET
8 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. American

    Agree. President Obama stands strong on principle for middle-class Americans, while Republican candidates unfortunately side with elite policies for the 1% uber rich.

    The contrast will be clear next year. Obama 2012

    December 23, 2011 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  2. Surfer George

    "Sometimes its politically difficult to do the right thing."

    Then stop playing politics and do THE PEOPLE'S business. If its the right thing in the end, shouldn't it be the right thing from the start?

    "Why not do the right thing for the American people even though it’s not exactly what we want."

    I would SERIOUSLY like an answer to that question. You had several chances to urge Republican House members to do the right thing, to DEMAND that they do the right thing... Why wait till your feet were in the fire and you all ended up looking like a Working Class American hater?

    December 23, 2011 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  3. Corpsman

    Obama IS the champion of the middle class (and most of America). Name one republican who gives a rat'z a55 about the majority of the country. FOUR MORE YEARS!

    December 23, 2011 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    the bottom line is they dönt want it passed and they dònt care if it is they have nothing t worry about

    December 23, 2011 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  5. bob

    OMG..The prez wanted one year then blasts the republicans for holding out for one year....don't they call call that hypocritical

    December 23, 2011 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  6. Chad

    C'mon man! Really!
    $40 a paycheck is what we're rejoicing over when the economy is in the tank...and not relief in sight...
    C'mon man!

    December 23, 2011 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  7. D. V. Jones

    How can Obama claim to be a champion of the middle class when the so called "payroll tax holiday" is simply another drain on Social Security. The payroll tax is the principal way the Social Security trust fund is funded. Congress has skimmed money out of the Social Security trust fund for years. Now the Democrats and Republicans are both guilty of cutting the funds going into Social Security. The "middle class" is being robbed not helped by this so called tax cut. This is not a tax cut. It is another slam against Social Security.

    December 23, 2011 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  8. Rob Stumpf

    So should we spend ourselves in to bankruptcy so we can continue to have politicians to buy middle class votes?

    If people have really become this stupid, it doesn't matter who the President is. Our country is finished, anyway.

    December 23, 2011 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  9. Spence

    Congress signs a TWO Month extension and Barry thinks he is cooler than sliced bread. Give me a break. And stop looking down that nose at everyone!

    December 23, 2011 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  10. TCVAN

    Your "analysis" is incorrect. No one has forgotten how the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team ram-rodded an idiotic health care plan through the system instead of focusing on the economy....even ultra-liberal Massachuttes elected a Repbulican becase of it. He is a one-termer.

    December 23, 2011 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  11. Skading

    Can someone explain why it's President's Obama's fault why the economy hasn't made a turn for the better yet? I need to fully understand this through an educated, political lense.

    December 23, 2011 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  12. Bitpilot

    The champion of the middle class has caused so much havoc, that the middle class he champions is in bad shape and is getting worse. ONE TERM AND DONE, for this bozo.

    December 23, 2011 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  13. PuzzledMan

    Hard to understand why CNN "reports" on the subtext of things like this rather than their substance. What happened wasn't the Republicans handing anyone anything, it is the same obstructionist psychosis we've been subjected to for far too long. People aren't seeing these victories for the democrats. This is the republican party unraveling and trying to take us all down with them.

    This independent is outright sick of it. Boehner belongs in prison, not receiving a paycheck made from our tax dollars. These people do not work for us, why are we paying them?

    December 23, 2011 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  14. Kevin Green

    Once again, people covering politics see this as a horse race. Who is winning between the Pres and the GOP. When this tax is just additional debt for the country. What happened to real statesman, that make real decisions? Anyone can give way two generations of money and kick the can down the road. When is this nonsense end? Are we glad about 20 bucks a week. It's like we feed off every dollar the government doesn't take away.

    December 23, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  15. VRage13

    Don't be fooled. BO and all the other liberal socialist dems are playing kick the can down the road for thier own political gains. BO said he was going to change the way Washington works. BO siad he was going to give hope to ALL Americans. To quote Palin "How's that hopey changey thing workin' for ya?" BO said he was the man to make the hard decisions. BO siad here was going to be the transparent president. BO said he would be not drag things out. BO said he would not be in bed with big business. These and many more things BO said are blatant LIES! The repubs are no better. Time for a 100% turnover in gov't. They all have forgotten "We the people" and act more like would be dictators. They have forgotten "Gov't of the people, by the people and for the people" as they pass bad laws and exempt themselves from having to follow them. You know how to tell if a politician is lying? Thier lips are moving.

    December 23, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  16. markeraymond

    I think the government realizes that the US has a problem with no happy solution. we are top heavy with non-productive people who are net drains on the productive minority. Since we would not ship them out to sea with a one-way ticket, and since they are a self-propagating population, we are doomed- end game. Witness Europe over the last 100 years. So why not kick the can down the road. How this ultimately ends is with a very tiny extremely wealthy class and the rest of the population living like rats.

    December 23, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  17. WDinDallas

    Politics versus policy today. Come March there will be hell to pay.

    December 23, 2011 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  18. Russ

    The Republicans were exposed for what they are. Obstructionists and only for their own narrow interests.

    December 23, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  19. RH

    In my opinion it shows that he is serious about continuing to put our country in debt. How can you balance the budget when you spend more and take in less. This is the real dysfunction of government.

    December 23, 2011 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  20. Tommy Mack

    Overall taxes are lower for all Americans. Obama wants to extend them for the middle class, the republicans want to extend them for the people making million-plus... AND add an oil pipeline. FACT.

    The Tea Party wants to "Take America back". If that was true, they'd have to deal with higher taxes for the rich, a balanced budget, and not invading countries that we'd spend trillions on.

    December 23, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  21. Polaris64

    The President and his congressional cohorts are all liars. The Republicans wanted a full 12 month extension and so did the White house. it was the Democrats in the Senate that pushed for the 2 month extension. This is beyond words how easily the Democrats fooled, with the help of the media like CNN, the American public. None of this will create any jobs. None of Obama's "jobs plan" would help the economy. The man knows nothing of capitalist economics. He only knows how to damage the private sector through his regulatory controls and class warfare rhetoric.

    December 23, 2011 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  22. marshall autry

    It mean he is a pathetic president of the "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA"
    Forced two month and wants to come back and pass it for a year. That is what the Republicans were trying to do in the first place. CHICAGO POLITICS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 23, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  23. Dave

    Republicans are done.

    December 23, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  24. RJ

    I see it as a win win for each party. It's the american people who will loose.

    December 23, 2011 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  25. Mike

    The choice really is clear now. Vote for Obama and the Democrats in 2012 if you want to support the middle class. Vote for Republicans if you want only to give the wealthiest more advantages on top of what they already have.

    December 23, 2011 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
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