Obama’s Occupy GOP Campaign

The president combines populist politics with historic maneuvers to defeat his foes

So another part of his strategy will come from the playbook of another U.S. president: Harry S. Truman. “Give ‘Em Hell” Harry managed to gain re-election in 1948 by running against a Republican Congress considered one of the most inept—that is, until now. So Obama must position himself against his version of a “do-nothing” Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders have gave him a huge assist early on by spelling out their “Stop Obama” mandate, and then adopting a “Party of No” legislative approach over the past three years.  As a result, Congress has received a 9% approval rating, the worst in history and, in fact, four times lower than that of the Internal Revenue Service.

Obama is applying the heat. Since blockage of his comprehensive job package, the White House has initiated the “We Can’t Wait” campaign in which the president has spent the last two months tirelessly barnstorming the nation encouraging citizens to pressure their representatives to enact “bite-size” pieces of the measure. Not satisfied with waiting for congressional action, he has implemented a series of executive orders that promise to enable 1.6 million college students to repay federal loans, 1 million homeowners to meet mortgage payments and thousands of veterans to find jobs. Moreover, he seeks to use the recent failure of the congressional “super committee” last month to forge a deficit reduction deal—now painful automatic budget cuts will take place in 2013 as part of the debt-ceiling debate compromise—to once again demonstrate the GOP’s unwillingness to take a “balanced” budget-cutting approach as well as tax the rich.

The thrust of Osawatomie speech was to press the wealthiest Americans who currently pay “the lowest taxes in over half a century” to fork over a larger share of such obligations.  Obama also stood firm on the payroll tax cut due to expire by year’s end. He has proposed a one-year extension and expansion of the tax holiday on the employee share of the payroll tax, cutting it to 3.1% from the 2011 rate of 4.2%. He also seeks to a reduction for the employer share to 3.1% from 6.2% on the first $5 million of payroll in 2012.  And those companies that grew payrolls up to $50 million in a year by hiring new workers or raising salaries of existing employees would receive a complete tax holiday.

Once again, the Obama White House is at odds with GOP members over—you guessed it—tax increases. Senate Republicans rejected a Dem proposal to include a new tax on income over $1 million to help finance the extension even though one of their own—moderate Susan Collins of Maine—voted for an initial version of the plan last week. At the same time, most of the Senate’s GOP minority opposed the party’s own plan to freeze government pay and other steps to offset the cost.  House Republican leaders are trying to cut a deal within their caucus to gain support from Tea Party members who want to throw out the entire proposal while others have discussed using the extension as leverage to tack on unrelated measures they want but the president clearly stated this week he would reject such maneuvers.

Bottom line: Failure to pass the extension and expansion would mean less in Americans’ pocketbooks next year—$1,550 for a household earning $50,000 a year—and serve to hamper  consumer spending which, in turn, could cripple an already tepid recovery. So Obama plans to keep the pressure on. In fact, the White House unveiled its version of a doomsday clock on its website, counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the December 31 deadline before taxes will  increase for roughly 160 million Americans if Congress fails to act.

Obama will also have to continue to clash with GOP over nominations as he enters the last year of the first term of his presidency. Latest development has been the push to derail the installation of Obama’s candidate to help correct the economic inequality that Occupy Wall Street forces are protesting. Politico reported today Senate Republicans have blocked the president’s nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The vote of 53-45—with one senator voting “present”—fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

The key to victory for components of the jobs measure, payroll tax cut extension  – and his re-election – will be to negotiate with the GOP from a position of strength. That will mean standing firm in the arena, ready to strike the next blow.

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  • Dave

    First, let’s get this out of the way, I’m a 58 year old white man from New Orleans. While the people in this article have a tendency to focus on the black communities, it is poverty that is the main topic. Having lived in a city with 68% black population, I can understand their perspective. Poverty exists in communities that span all races, so even if the focus is on black communities, the principles developed can be transferred , to a greater or lesser degree, to the other communities. I’ve work for the government in these neighborhoods and have personally seen it for myself. That’s why I think this current argument about contraception is appauling. One of the things that ensures continuation of poverty is the muliple pregnancies of young girls, with multiple partners. This problem can be reduced by counceling at family planning and the use of contraceptives. The Republican candidates have absolutely no clue when it comes to any of this. They also have not expressed any sound ideas or a willingness to attack this problem and help the less fortunate attain the education and skills to improve their lives. You may not be happy with a lot of things President Obama has done, but believe me, “President Romney” would make things much worse.
    I hope this makes sense, since I tend to ramble too much.

  • GonzaLo

    My 13 year old son likes to run around in the woods with his aisorft rifle so every other weekend he goes out in the woods for these aisorft games where they wear protective gear and shoot plastic pellets at each other lots of fun, right? I like the idea of him being out in the fresh air with men of ages 12 to 60 forming brigades and playing soldier great stuff.This past weekend I was disappointed to hear that the organizers put a man in a suit and Obama mask as a target to play a round of Kill Obama . He ran around and all the guts n glory guys took shots at him for fun. At first I was disappointed then I thought I’d lodge a complaint (I mean this is my president, right?), in the end I just decided that my son is old enough to make up his own mind about what kind of person he wants to be. His half-brother Junie is black and his best little brother.What’s wrong with America? I can’t fix people, but I can damn sure help to create a great man my son. This weekend he’s back at it again with his rifle learning from the stupid adults.

  • Thekairi

    The comment that Mike made was about how irnioc it was that the tornadoes were striking in the Bible Belt. He wasn’t talking about the victims. How many people (especially the politicians) in the South believe that God is on their side. If He is, then He’s not doing a good job. Just like when Texas was on fire, what was Rick Perry’s brilliant idea? Have a prayer mass with racist, homophobic pastors at his side. It’s terrible when tragedy strikes and when people die. But if the Right is looking for someone worst than Limbaugh, let me assure you, Malloy isn’t. In fact, nobody is worse than Limbaugh.

  • Shelina

    “On health care”Whatever the pbulic opinion stands of its percentage, multiply that with 2 and then see if the plan stands for the wise heads to pass because maturity of wisdom should not be seen of its static position when change presents itself through an able being of life. Incidentally that is not Obama entirely but is the surplus that stands behind him and America to be in glory in times to come? This is an uncategorized comment on health care where perhaps America’s elite might feel that no outside power has a right to speak on the internal affairs of America and its rule? Sorry, it is not me conveying this but Krishna for America in human terms of its development.