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Inside Obama's Twitter Blitz On the Payroll Tax 294

Hugh Pickens writes "Brandon Rittiman reports that White House officials launched a Twitter campaign Tuesday to put pressure on Congress to reach a deal extending the payroll-tax cut. Using the Twitter hashtag #40dollars, the White House successfully got thousands of people to respond and explain what a $40 cut to each paycheck would mean to them personally. By Wednesday morning, the #40dollars hashtag started 'trending,' which is what happens when Twitter's algorithms see a topic suddenly surge. It's not easy to create that kind of surge, but the White House has 2.5 million Twitter followers to call upon. Macon Phillips, the President's Director of Digital Strategy, says his team has managed to get a few Twitter topics to rise to the level of 'trending' before — most notably when they began tweeting about the death of Osama bin Laden. 'What's very important about a social-media campaign like this is that regular people are making the point about how this would affect them. It's not us here in Washington trying to argue on their behalf.' says Phillips. 'The #40dollars campaign puts a face on that amount to demonstrate the payroll tax cut's real-world impact on middle-class families.'"
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Inside Obama's Twitter Blitz On the Payroll Tax

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  • But (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:30PM (#38473784)

    I thought tax cuts are evil and stuff?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Timewasted ( 1731254 )
      Well that depends: who are the tax cuts for? If they are for the poor, then of course it is evil. If they are for the rich, then it will spur job growth and our economy -- at least, this is what FOX would like us to believe...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The Republicans (and apparently the President) wanted the tax holiday extended all year. The Democrats talked them down to two months.
        • The Republicans wanted to tie pipeline subsidies to the year long tax holiday. To suggest that it was just a matter of 2 months versus 12 months is disingenuous
          • Re:But (Score:4, Insightful)

            by jmac_the_man ( 1612215 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:38PM (#38474758)
            Well, Mr. Ingenuous, the pipeline thing would require an up-or-down ruling on the Keystone Pipeline. (Obama's EPA is holding it up because it makes environmentalists mad despite being a good idea.) The Republican bill doesn't even require them to approve it. Calling that provision a subsidy (e.g., the owners of the pipeline getting some kind of monetary payment from the government) isn't ingenuous at all.
            • Unfortunately they (house republicans) also wanted to trim 200,000+ jobs from the public sector, reduce unemployment benefits, and a bunch of other such nonsense. This being the first tax break they chose to harp about how we are going to pay for it after all. There are a lot more details to the house bill for 12 months which you seem to have excluded from the account.

              We can always start with the fact that the bush tax cuts are passed through without payment for them, but when it comes time to renew the tax

            • Then I'll admit to being misinformed, but your statement

              The Republicans (and apparently the President) wanted the tax holiday extended all year. The Democrats talked them down to two months.

              is still disingenuous (especially given that you apparently knew the specifics with witch you responded to me).

        • Re:But (Score:5, Informative)

          by ninetyninebottles ( 2174630 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:48PM (#38474862)

          The Republicans (and apparently the President) wanted the tax holiday extended all year. The Democrats talked them down to two months.

          You should really pay more attention. The Democrats presented a plan to extend the payroll cut for a year and keep medicare payouts at the same level. The Republicans presented a plan to extend the payroll cut for a year while at the same time guaranteeing the oil companies can build a pipeline from Alaska to the Gulf through protected wildlife refuges. Both groups compromised on extending it for two months (with some republicans trying to stall it) in order that they might argue more about which additional things should be added. Mostly, the Democrats have been trying to pass the cuts while the Republicans are refusing until they get the oil company benefits they promised lobbyists.

          Claims that it is the Democrats that are preventing the passage of these tax cuts on a longer time frame is either disingenuous or reflects a twisted perception of reality. Stop watching Fox "News".

          • Please, people, stop calling it things like "Extending a Tax Cut". Taxes either go UP or they go DOWN. What was going to happen was an automatic TAX INCREASE. Any other label is just sugar coating.
    • Well, this one is. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cje ( 33931 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:57PM (#38474158) Homepage

      I hate to say it, because it's horribly unpopular from a political perspective, but this payroll tax "holiday" is just disastrous policy. Depending on what numbers and what year you're looking at, anywhere from 81 to 89 percent of the entire U.S. budget goes to two things: defense and entitlements. And of those entitlements, the biggest long-term liabilities and problems that we have are Social Security and Medicare.

      When you hear these Presidential candidates talk about how they would fix the budget deficits by getting rid of things like the EPA, the IRS, the Departments of Commerce / Energy / Education, etc., then you know should know that they are not making any sort of good-faith effort at solving the problem, and that they cannot be taken seriously. The dirty little secret is that you could cut out 100% of the discretionary non-defense spending (i.e., everything except for the military and entitlements) and you would have barely made a dent in the problem as a whole.

      The whole purpose of the payroll/FICA tax is to provide funds for Social Security and Medicate. Again, these are the two biggest problems that the U.S. has from a budget perspective -- biggest by leaps and bounds. So not only does this policy make the deficit problem worse, it makes it worse in the worst possible way. Politicians can claim that these tax cuts are "paid for", but everybody knows that these types of Washington claims are usually just shell games for political purposes.

      For what it's worth, I like the fact that the payroll tax holiday disproportionally benefits those towards the lower end of the income scale. But there has to be a better way to do this, especially at this critical time in history when the Boomers are retiring and we're going to need these trust funds more than at any time in our history.

      • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @08:12PM (#38477678) Homepage Journal

        You should vote Ron Paul then, because nobody else will cut militarism and bring all troops home from across the globe and would reform the SS and Medicare to keep taking care of people who are on those programs now, the elderly and the children, while giving people option to opt out (at first just the people under age of 25, but eventually to let anybody opt out as these programs will be shut down.) And SS and Medicare will be shut down, whether Ron Paul is elected or not, it's just with Ron Paul the way to shut them down will be gradual, allowing the current recipients to keep getting their support (but probably means testing in order to cut costs). If it's not Ron Paul, then the way these programs will be shut down is going to be by the dollar crashing and the loss of purchasing power will mean that the nominal numbers on the coming checks will buy nothing.

    • But... I thought only Republicans cut taxes! Dems just want to tax tax tax amirite?
    • Re:But (Score:5, Interesting)

      by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:22PM (#38474490)

      No Democrat has ever claimed that all tax cuts are evil. That's just a flagrant lie. By contrast, the Republicans do claim that taxes are always bad and should only ever go down. So why are they set against this one?

      Answer: They're not. They're just taking hostages, again. Just as when they secured the extension of the Bush tax cuts on the rich by threatening to cut off unemployment benefits around this time last year. Or when they forced cuts to discretionary spending by threatening to force the country into default. This time they're trying to secure a new oil pipeline, and probably other concessions, by threatening to raise taxes on the middle class.

    • They are only Evil when the other side proposes it.

      These are extending those Bush Tax Cuts, in which the Democrats heavily opposed to... However as we approach an election year and their #1 man needs to get reelected having him raise taxes will make him look bad.

      So they change the verbiage around to make it fit their party better. So except for a way stimulate the economy it is helping the middle class.
  • *yawn* (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:34PM (#38473846)

    The disagreement was never over the payroll tax holiday. The disagreement was over how to pay for it. The President's initial proposal was to pay for it with the millionaire's surtax, which he knew that Republicans opposed before he proposed it.

    For Democrats who are pretending to not understand, this would be the equivalent of the Republicans proposing to pay for it by slashing Obama Care, and then accusing the President of being against the payroll tax holiday when he came out against the legislation.

    For some reason, the media has used this as a huge opportunity to bash Republicans. Want to know why Republicans don't want to extend the tax holiday for two months? They don't want to go through the same media circus again in two months.

    The bias of our media is pathetic. The stupidity of our population is tragic. The fate of our people is obvious. Next year we elect the last President of the United States. We face serious problems in the next five years, and the media has successfully kept anyone remotely competent out of the race.

    This is going to be hilarious.

    • Re:*yawn* (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:43PM (#38473980) Journal
      The thing is, it's only Republican legislaters that are so darn against the millionaire's surtax. The majority of Americans are okay with it, and a great deal of millionaires are also okay with it. The only people fighting it tooth and nail are those who kissed the ring of Grover Norquist, and those whose districts are held hostage by the Tea Party. Oh, and delisional Tea Partiers who are retired or unemployed yet somehow believe they'll be making a million bucks a year ANY DAY NOW.
      • The thing is, it's only Republican legislaters that are so darn against the millionaire's surtax.

        Actually, the money is coming out of Social Security not the general budget. The argument for SS is that it is a government managed retirement fund and that what you get out is based on what you put in. Receiving SS benefits is equivalent to a 401k or pension in that you get what you earned.

        Making millionaires contribute to SS is changing the meaning of what it is, from something I earned to getting other peoples' money. This actually makes it less secure because it takes away the moral aspect of receivi

        • by nomadic ( 141991 )
          Social security was never meant to be like a 401(k); it was meant as a combination retirement plan/insurance plan. That's why you can get SS benefits well before retirement in certain circumstances, in which case you are almost inevitably getting a lot more out than you paid in.
      • by jon3k ( 691256 )
        Of course the majority of Americans are OK with it - it doesn't apply to them. Now let's define what "a great deal of millionaires is" (25%? 50%?) and now you show me a poll that backs up that statement.
      • Re:*yawn* (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Paul Pierce ( 739303 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:53PM (#38474906) Homepage
        The problem with the millionaire's surtax is your talking about a band-aid at best. The rich already pay the vast amount of taxes in this country. According to CNN 48% of people don't even pay federal taxes anymore. Even ignoring that - history shows the government will take in ~18% of GDP at the end of the day; no matter what they tax who. Think about how important that is - even if they tax the rich 85% - they'll still get the same amount at the end of the day. There are lots of reasons for that magic number - but some of it comes down to how much of their own money people want to keep at the end of the day. The more they are taxed the more they will hide, or they will make less. Would you work for 30 cents on the dollar - perhaps - but as hard as you'd work for 80?

        The government really does have a spending problem only. Revenue is quite static; however the big trouble they got themselves into is their deficit spending. GDP is C + I + G +-exports basically. G (government spending) is a huge part of GDP, but government overspending is roughly 12% of our GDP. Think about that - 'fake demand' is really all it is.

        If the government spends what they take in next year (which they should) our GDP will shrink 12% automatically. No one wants that - because that cycle gets worse - revenue goes down the year after and now they have to spend even less, etc...

        Option 2 is what the President, most dems, and many repubs want - 'kick the can'. Now some are smart enough to know that only makes the inevitable worse. Some probably really do believe we can borrow more and more - even though to even stay at our current state we have to borrow 'exponentially' more every year. Run that through your head - to sustain our current economic situation (which isn't that good) we have to borrow at record rates - to the point where in 10 years we'll have to borrow as much as our entire country produces in one year - just to keep where we are.

        Bottom line - we take the hit now and ride through it - or we ride it out until it collapses entirely.
      • Re:*yawn* (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mitreya ( 579078 ) <mitreya&gmail,com> on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:57PM (#38474984)
        Oh, and delisional Tea Partiers who are retired or unemployed yet somehow believe they'll be making a million bucks a year ANY DAY NOW.

        I think you forgot to mention one more detail that is important. The tax is marginal - you are taxed on income above 1 million! That is, anyone making 1 million a year will be unaffected by it and anyone making 1,000,100 will pay $2.5 (or $3.5, dollars, I forget) extra taxes. You have to make well over (i.e. several) a million to care.

      • Funnier still, vast majority Americans - including most Republican voters! - actually believe [] that the best way to distribute income is, essentially, "socialist" (i.e. what Americans themselves normally think as socialist). You just have to be careful to ask them without using that dirty pinko word:

        The ideal wealth distribution chosen by the 5,522 people who took the online survey has the top fifth of Americans owning between 30 percent and 40 percent of the wealth. That means Americans believe the ideal distribution of wealth is that of Sweden. Moreover, 90 percent of Republicans share that belief. (Actually, 90.2 percent, as the survey coauthor, Prof. Daniel Ariely of Duke University, noted when we met to discuss his work.) The survey sample, with more than 10 times the 504 people often used in polls, is robust and credible. (For the report, see Doc 2010-21608.) The genius in the survey was to avoid questions using loaded terms like ‘‘estate tax’’ and ‘‘death tax.’’ Instead those surveyed were shown pie charts and asked what they thought was the ideal distribution of wealth and what they estimated to be the wealth distribution in America. They were not told that one of the pie charts was Sweden’s actual wealth distribution, but people gravitated to it like moths to a flame.

    • Because it is a pain in the ass and costly to implement []

    • by Dan667 ( 564390 )
      the bias in the media favoring the rich is pathetic. It eclipsed any brief sanity in the payroll tax holiday.
    • Re:*yawn* (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AJH16 ( 940784 ) <aj AT gccafe DOT com> on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:54PM (#38474116) Homepage

      Yeah, as much as I hate how biased Fox news is, CNN surprised me with something I happened to catch when I was in the grocery store and happened to see it on. They were talking to one of the Republican presidential hopefuls about what his view on the whole thing was and he was answering quite well I thought (in terms of explaining his view) that he didn't want to gut the money from elsewhere and that he thought that there needed to be some way to fund the tax cut and was being pretty clear that while he didn't like the idea of allowing it to expire he wasn't seeing an alternative that he thought would work, but the anchor would not let go of trying to ask him if he was in favor of raising taxes even though he was already being pretty direct at stating his view. The CNN anchor was clearly trying to corner him in to having to say something unpopular as opposed to having a dialog and talking about the issues it would cause. It was politics not news and appeared very clearly biased to me.

      • Re:*yawn* (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @04:49PM (#38475554)

        The CNN anchor was clearly trying to corner him in to having to say something unpopular as opposed to having a dialog and talking about the issues it would cause. It was politics not news and appeared very clearly biased to me.

        I didn't see it - I don't watch any television news. But if I were doing such an interview, that's exactly what I would be pushing for because few if any republicans had word one to say about how to pay for the extension of the Bush tax cuts. At best it was all magic talk about "job creators" ultimately improving the economy.

        I don't think its "politics" at all to zero in on what sure looks like a serious case of hypocrisy. I put a lot more weight on increasing consumer demand as a way to create news jobs than I do on incentives for "job creators" so perhaps I'm biased, and there is some means of explaining the apparent hypocrisy that I've missed.

        • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

          That's understandable, but then question them on the hypocrisy, don't try to trap them in to saying what you want them to day because it would be sensational and make them look bad. Ask them how they feel it is different from that situation. Ask them why their view seems to be different. Give them a chance to explain themselves and ask questions if things don't add up. That is the point of the press. Not to try and get someone to trip up so that you can make a big headline and make someone look bad. W

    • Here's the thing: at this point, I don't really care anymore what Republicans say. They pretty much lost me for the foreseeable future with their stance on the tax holiday.

      Note: I'm pretty fiscally conservative. In my own finances, I only spend money I have, plan for the future with a significant rainy day fund, and consider whether the purchase I'm about to make is a need vs a want, and what its ROI is. I expect my government to work with the same principles. In theory, this should align nicely with the re

    • by Kagato ( 116051 )

      The media picked up on it because it was hypocrisy in action. GOP has taken a position that even closing loop holes is a tax increase that cannot be tolerated. The so-called Bush Tax cuts must be made permeant because you cannot add more taxes to the job creators. And while you are saying that there was never a disagreement over the holiday, that's not true. There was plenty of disagreement about if the middle class "needed" the tax cut. House Tea Party caucus leader Michelle Bachmann called the Tax Ho

    • by bgat ( 123664 )

      I think it is interesting that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are outing each other on this point. So while both try to paint themselves as being on the side of their constituents, it's clear that neither one is. Nor the President, for that matter.

  • by drainbramage ( 588291 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:41PM (#38473936)

    Isn't thei tax the source of funding for SSI?
    It looks like saying "I'm cutting the payroll tax" == "I'm bankrupting SSI faster than ever!"
    SSI is in the red, this will not help, it will hurt 'real-world' 'middle-class families'.
    This goes well past obfuscation and looks like intentional dishonesty to me.
    This will hurt everyone.

    • "The two-month version's $33 billion cost will be covered by a .1 percentage point increase on guarantee fees on new home loans backed by mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae"

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @05:24PM (#38475904) Homepage Journal

      All I can think of is that Obama lost a ridiculous bet with Boehner on some secret round of golf.

      Boehner: "Ten thousand dollars? Chump change. No, I said let's make it interesting."
      Obama: "Ok, loser has to wear a dress and an SS armband at their next press conference."
      Boehner: "That's getting closer, but people pretty much expect that. The campaigns are on, so wacky attention-whoring is already in."
      Obama: "What did you have in mind?"
      Boehner: "If I win, you have to be all tax cut, free money, no consequences, wooo! and my party gets to be.."
      Obama: "-- Oh my god --"
      Boehner "..the voice of.."
      Obama: "-- I don't believe this --"
      Boehner: "..reason and responsibility."

      [Several seconds of silence, then they both burst out laughing]

      Boehner: "Scared?"
      Obama: "No, you're toast. Speaking of which, what happens when I win?"
      Boehner: "We drop the birther thing."
      Obama: "Oh please. No seriously, c'mon. I used to think that whole thing was stupid, but it makes people subconsciously think of me as a little more exotic and cool. Try again."
      Boehner: *shrugs* "Science."
      Obama: "Are you serious?! Holy shit. Really?"
      Boenher: "The question is, do you have the balls?"
      Obama: "What's your handicap?"
      Boehner: "Gingr--" Obama: "Quit fucking around, this is a serious bet."
      Boehner: "Minus 5."
      Obama: "Oh."
      Boehner: "Not so cocky now, are you, Mr Cool?"

      Obama should be praised as a hero. So he lost at golf, BFD. He fought for science.

  • If this cut means $40 in each weekly paycheck, you are doing pretty well for your self. It is only a 2% cut in the Social Security tax withholding. For the average U.S. household, that is less than $25 a week. So apparently, Obama is targeting this tax cut to the rich, since his target demographic will get $40 a week from it? The other great part of this is that the House was getting beat up for not passing this two month extension, when they had passed a one year extension.
    Of course, what I love is that t
  • Give 72% of total available wealth to the 5% of the population, and then do $40 cuts, $40 raises etc ...

    nothing can fix things in a system that gives 72% of everything to 5%, and gives the rest 95% of the population only 28%. oh, and the bottom 85% in that society, gets only 15% to boot. []
  • in their obstinance to defy anything obama tries to do, no matter how good or bad for the american people, the republican leadership is willing to oppose a tax CUT

    because the tax cut is not for rich people?

    republican robots: if you define yourself as "i'm everything that guy is not" and that guy is actually decent, where does that leave your political future?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You mean that passing a year long extension rather than a two month extension is what you call opposing a tax cut?
      • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:32PM (#38474672)

        They intentionally added tons of unrelated, partisan crap to the one year bill. Essentially, they were taking the American people hostage. Obama and the Senate refused to play that game, and so came up with a two month extension to buy time in the hopes that the Republicans will stop taking hostages.

        It's a vain hope, and we'll be right back where we started in two months -- the Republicans with a gun to the head of the American people, demanding that we give them the world. Same as they did with the unemployment benefits last year, and the debt ceiling some months ago. So don't you dare try to pretend that the Republicans were behaving ethically in proposing that "one year extension". To do so makes you either ignorant or a liar.

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:46PM (#38474026)
    should be the next tag the white house pushes. The US cannot afford spending $650 billion on a military we don't need.
  • by travdaddy ( 527149 ) <travo@l[ ] ['inu' in gap]> on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:50PM (#38474078)
    The two-month extension passed both houses and Obama just now signed it.
  • I think it's worth mentioning that on twitter "trending" isn't just a measure of numbers. It's also a large part a measure of proportional increase. This means it's easier to get a trending topic on something that hasn't been talked about much before with a wierd hashtag.

    This is a blog discussing how a tag for a gaming tournament became a trending topic. []

  • What gets me steamed about budgets is huge debate on small stuff. Geez a $40 payroll tax cut? (which is really Social Security deduction people should get back later as it is an entitlement). All this debate over $40!?!?!? It is like they argue over NASA, NSF, NOAA, etc. budgets that don't amount to diddly. Meanwhile on big ticket items (DoD) is never debated. I'm going to mention Social Security as that is entitlement program separate from budgets that lead to deficits. SS has its own problems (will leave

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )

      Maybe you should read some of the tweets that this article is about where people explain how $40 less will make a difference in their budgets.

      No doubt there are other programs that need debating, but for a lot of people, this will make a difference in their day to day lives.

    • by jon3k ( 691256 )

      It is the ***same*** mentality that people who want to lose weight so they have a Diet Coke along with a large meal. If ya want to lose weight you must either reduce intake, do more exercise, or both. A Diet Coke is only 0.05% of the big picture. Be a man and have a real coke.

      Completely incorrect. Let's look at McDonald's as an example. Let's say you ate the following for lunch every day:

      1/4 Pounder with Cheese: 510 calories
      Medium French Fry: 380 calories
      Large Coke: 310 calories
      Total: 1200 calories
      (source) []

      In this scenario the Coke accounts for 25.8% of the calories (!!!). If you were to switch from regular to diet coke and change NOTHING ELSE, you would lose 31.5lbs in a year.

      310 calories * 365 days in a year / 3500 calories per pound = 31.5 lbs/year

  • Unfortunately, when the NDAA puts Americans into military detention indefinitely, they will not have internet access to twitter the impact of the negative consequences it has on their lives.
  • Well, it covers one month of electric.

    But how much will it cost companies to update their payroll deduction systems?

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.