For “renaldomacias” on Twitter, $40 extra a paycheck means “buying a full bag of groceries OR filling the car with gas to get to work. Without that $40, we’ll be doing neither.” BaldEmotions writes, “#40dollars a paycheck through the entire year is what it costs us to send our daughter to public preschool.” Fink820 sent this Twitter message: “#40Dollars means gas 4 a wk so that I can get to work to earn #40Dollars for the next week. #40Dollars means ALOT to ALOT of us middle class.”
But to House Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans who appear to be leading him rather than the other way around, $40 extra a paycheck for two months isn’t worth the trouble. Rather than taking the simple step of accepting a bipartisan Senate-approved two-month continuation of a payroll tax break, Boehner and his Tea Party brethren chose to be obstinate and arrogant.
After all, the tan one said, all that’s involved is “a measly $166.” Making sure that workers aren’t hit with the loss of that “measly” amount of money is too much to expect of the “job creators” out there, he went on to say.
““The Senate only goes for two months, but businesses send their taxes in, write the check – I used to write the check to the IRS, but it’s done on a quarterly basis. And so you’re gonna have a couple of months of this and another month of this … trying to figure out what your obligation is, is going to be difficult,” he said.
This afternoon, there are reports that Boehner may finally be trying to find a way to gracefully back down and accept some sort of short-term tax extension, after a 24-hour period in which Boehner was rebuked by even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and the ultra-conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Still, a settlement that that keeps the tax break in place, and allows benefits to continue to flow to the long-term unemployed, won’t easily wash away the taint of that “measly” comment.
A few days ago the White House began encouraging people to send messages via Twitter, Facebook and a White House webpage to let them know what the loss of $40 a paycheck, or roughly $166 over a two-month period, would mean to them. It turns out that for a lot of people, $166 is not “measly” at all. President Obama held a news conference today and brought before the television cameras some of the people who sent “#40dollars” messages. He shared some of their stories.
Joseph from New Jersey talked about how he would have to sacrifice the occasional pizza night with his daughters. He said — and I’m quoting — “My 16-year-old twins will be out of the house soon. I’ll miss this.”
Richard from Rhode Island wrote to tell us that having an extra $40 in his check buys enough heating oil to keep his family warm for three nights. In his words — I’m quoting — “If someone doesn’t think that 12 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.”
Pete from Wisconsin told us about driving more than 200 miles each week to keep his father-in-law company in a nursing home — $40 out of his paycheck would mean he’d only be able to make three trips instead of four.
We heard from a teacher named Claire from here in D.C. who goes to the thrift store every week and uses her own money to buy pencils and books for her fourth grade class. Once in a while she splurges on science or art supplies. Losing $40, she says, would mean she couldn’t do that anymore.
For others, $40 means dinner out with a child who’s home for Christmas, a new pair of shoes, a tank of gas, a charitable donation. These are the things at stake for millions of Americans. They matter to people. A lot.
It is easy if you are man whose net worth is between $2 million and $6 million to treat $166 as not worth forging a political compromise over. In Boehner’s world, $166 means as much to him as $3.32 would to a person whose net worth is $40,000. In other words, $166 is the change in the bottom of the dresser drawer.
But the conservative argument that belittles the pain of workers who will see their paychecks shrink by that amount over two months starting January 1 lays bare how estranged conservatives such as Boehner are from the lives of 99 percent, the people for whom $3.32 is frankly a big deal. Boehner and the extreme conservatives in the House would literally rather spare some payroll processing corporations and business bean-counters a few minutes of paperwork hassles than try to prevent some families from having to scrimp on groceries, some children from having to without a new item of clothing, or an older worker having to forgo a prescription.
It’s about time someone told the House speaker that if he thinks $166 is “measly,” he should resign from the House, surrender his wealth and get back in touch with the American economy wrecked by the policies that he has advocated.