Commentary: Can 40 Bucks Buy Your Vote?

Commentary: Can 40 Bucks Buy Your Vote?

Lately, President Obama has been showcasing average Americans and how they can use the 40 dollars per paycheck afforded by the payroll tax. But will 40 bucks be enough to make a difference at the polls?

Published February 24, 2012

If you’re like most Americans, you’re treading water financially. And, although President Obama’s quest to get Congress to extend the payroll tax cut is viewed as a victory for the middle class, it’s safe to say that his campaign hopes the move will lure voters come November.


This week, Obama praised Congress for extending the payroll tax cut and, in a style that’s become characteristic of the Obama presidency, he gathered a picture-perfect array of so-called “average Americans” to represent the benefactors in need of the 40-dollars-a-paycheck the tax cut will bring. 


The $144 billion package extends the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance through next December. The president believes the move will help an estimated 160 million Americans, saying “That $40 helps to pay the rent, the groceries, and the rising cost of gas, which is on a lot of people's minds right now.”


Ask any of the people standing behind the president during this victory lap and I’m sure they’d tell you that they’re happy to receive the $1000 boost the payroll tax affords them. But I wonder whether even a modest increase in income will be enough to override the general sense of malaise that is sweeping over the country. 


Is $40 all it takes to do the trick? Or is your vote worth a whole lot more than that? I’m sure the “average American” is quite happy to receive the needed funds, but I’m not so convinced they’ll take the bait and come to the polls as a result.  


I doubt that 40 bucks will do much for African-Americans who live daily with disparities in health care, quality education, housing and employment. And just because they may be in support of the added funds, they may still be too indifferent for the tax credit to make a difference in their vote.


While the Associated Press-Gfk survey finds that President Obama is riding a political high as the country sees a better economy on the horizon, people are still uneasy about rising gas prices, a troubled housing market and an improving Black unemployment rate that is still too high.


With Republicans still in an as yet undetermined race for a declared nominee, Democrats may feel a sense of complacency that could be dangerous in the end. We need only to remember the election of 2008, when President Obama faced a GOP that was similarly unenthusiastic about their candidate. And while he managed to walk away with a victory, it was not a landslide.


It could be that the small victories that the Dems are winning will do little to trump the mountain of problems that continue to stare voters in their faces.


After Congress extended the payroll tax, the president said, “More people spending more money means more businesses will be able to hire more workers.” But whether that will mean more voters supporting the president at the polls in November remains to be seen.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices.


(Photo: Michael Llewellyn / Stone / Getty Images)

Written by Andre Showell


Latest in news