In a recent New Visions Commentary entitled “Politics and Pawns,” Project 21 black leadership network member Hughey Newsome suggested that President Obama callously used the heartfelt concerns of the American people – like pawns on a chessboard – in 2011 to advance his economic agenda. Now, after his re-election, it would seem that his concern for the middle and lower class isn’t as clear as it once was.
Hughey used the example of Obama’s reaching out to Americans in 2011 to push for a continued payoll tax holiday that boosted take-home pay by lowering the amount deducted from Social Security taxes. When the White House wanted to continue the cut, people were asked to log onto Twitter and tweet to their social media friends how much the estimated $40 in savings would mean to them.
But the White House rather silently let the tax cut die after the 2012 election in the midst of fiscal cliff negotiations. When people received their first paychecks of the new year, many of them got a rude awakening when they found they would have less to spend and save.
Wondering about this change of priorities, Hughey wrote in his New Visions piece:
Can it be assumed that there was no longer a need for this $40 to buy medication or groceries? Are these ordinary Americans no longer struggling? Obama no longer seemed to have the same compassion or interest…
If it was good policy to continue the payroll tax holiday in 2011 and important enough for Obama to ask people to help him demagogue their struggles, why were those same struggling Americans apparently overlooked in 2013 when the holiday expired at the same time Hollywood and the windmill industry got tax breaks?
Noting that payroll taxes shot up in 2013, and new taxes such as the $63 ObamaCare fee that many Americans will pay in 2014 to cover others with pre-existing medical conditions, Hughey questioned whether or not Obama was genuinely concerned about the plight of America’s working families or just used them at the time as a means to and end:
It seems that, in Obama’s mind, $40 was more important before 2012 than it was after 2012 — so much so that now $63 isn’t even being considered as a burden. People and their problems were apparently being used as pawns in a political game.
It’s all that much more important to consider right now because the impact of the lapsed payroll tax cut and the specter of further taxes is already being felt by businesses.
Wal-Mart is reporting dismal sales and executives at the mega-retailer are blaming the trouble on the increase in the payroll tax. Other businesses such as Burger King and Kraft Food Group are lowering their economic growth forecasts and trying to figure out how to remain in the black in an America where fewer Americans are dining out and they are postponing big purchases due to their own feelings of economic uncertainty.
While the Obama White House is new spreading predictions of doom and gloom regarding the federal budget sequester, speculating that food safety is at risk because meat inspectors might be laid off, food companies such as Tyson Foods are already shifting to cheaper cuts of meat and cheaper chicken over expensive beef. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 45.7 percent of consumers are dampening their spending habits as a result of uncertainty over their take-home pay and the overall economic situation.
Hughey continues to wonder where Obama’s concern for the plight of the little guy went to all of a sudden. He says:
It’s disheartening to see that the Obama Administration seems to have decided that it didn’t need to leverage its influence and power to fight for ordinary Americans.
Obama usually tries position himself as a fighter for middle-class America whenever that position is politically feasible, but apparently now is not one of those times.
According to reports from Bloomberg, more than $100 billion will likely be lost from the economy in 2013 due to the expiration of the payroll tax holiday affecting around 77 percent of American households.
Considering that the payroll tax relief died during fiscal cliff negotiations when tax breaks were created for the wind energy industry and the entertainment industry, it sends a very poor signal to the hard-working public.
There is also a larger truth that Obama and his supporters still apparently do not have the fortitude to face. Social Security, which is funded through the payroll tax, is hopelessly underfunded.
The White House has not only fallen short in addressing the shortfall of funding Social Security over the long term, but they also use any attempt by political opponents to try to fix it as a political weapon against them. While such cynicism may generate immediate political points, it dissuades serious discussion on how to restructure the retirement safety net to ensure it is available for decades to come.
And, with the nation now facing sequestration-related across-the-board federal spending cuts, the pattern of the White House to choose politics over solid policy continues. While the rich got a significant tax hike to avert the fiscal cliff, Obama now wants to close tax breaks all Americans enjoy.
Notwithstanding the devastating effect this will have on charitable organizations and other beneficiaries of tax-exempt giving, the Obama Administration fails to admit that closing such alleged “loopholes” was originally turned down by White House negotiators because the revenue generated was supposedly limited.
It seems that getting more taxes from the rich – and now middle-class and even less fortunate Americans – to pay for an ever-growing government is the gift that keeps on giving for liberals.
top photo credit: iStockphoto