Today President Obama gave some advice to men about Valentine’s Day and some advice to Congress on the payroll tax cut. Before moving on to more substantial issues President Obama urged men not to forget Valentine’s Day, saying he has learned his own lesson through personal experience. The president then urged men to “go big.” In the same manner, the president urged Congress to act boldly by passing an extension of the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits without a delay. A full video of the president’s remarks can be seen to the left. A summary appears below.
The president defined the payroll cut issue in broader terms, saying this is “make or break year” for the middle class and those who want to be in the middle class. Obama said that we can “settle for a country where a few people do really, really well, and everybody else struggles just to get by, or we can restore an economy where everybody gets a fair shot.”
The “fair shot” theme has been a consistent part of President Obama’s remarks in recent weeks, perhaps previewing the main message he will use in the 2012 campaign against his yet-to-be-determined Republican challenger.
The president said that the economy is beginning to turn around. Over the past three years employers have hired 3.7 million new workers. At the same time, the president said the economy still has a long way to go before fully recovering from the wounds inflicted by the 2008-2009 recession.
President Obama then said that this is the “last time” that the country can afford to allow what he called a “tax hike on middle class Americans.” The payroll tax cut amounts to 2% of wages for most working Americans. For the average that amounts to $40 per paycheck, or more $1000 over an entire year. If Congress does not pass an extension the payroll tax cut will expire on March 1. The president urged the Congress to pass the tax cut without “delay” or “drama.” The president then also urged an extension of unemployment benefits.
In recent weeks Republicans in Congress have been more receptive to the payroll tax cut extension, but as the president hinted nothing can be counted on until the extension is actually signed. Republicans have dropped their previous demand that the payroll tax cut extension be paid for with spending cuts. However, Republicans could still put other language with the payroll tax cut extension, such as a legislative authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline that the Obama administration previously rejected.
Getting an extension of jobless benefits through Congress may be an even tougher sell for the president. Studies show that jobless benefits create more demand, and ultimately jobs, in the economy. But Republicans are unconvinced by these studies, instead favoring tax cuts for businesses to try and create economic growth.