Payroll tax cut campaign moves to Twitter, Facebook

The White House took its campaign to extend the payroll tax cut to Twitter and Facebook this week, generating thousands of responses to its question, “What does $40 mean to you?”

The $40 represents the average amount lost per paycheck for a family making about $50,000 per year, if the payroll tax cut is not renewed by the time it expires on Dec. 31.

Most Democrats and Republicans are supporting the extension, but the parties are split on how to pay for it, as well as on unrelated measures that have been included in the debate. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a two-month extension to give Congress more time to work out the details, but the Republican-controlled House rejected that legislation.

The White House officials launched the social media campaigns on Dec. 20 that aim to pressure GOP members to approve the extension.

On Twitter and Facebook, White House officials are asking members of the public to tweet or post what $40 means to them. Thousands of answers have flooded in, listing items such as groceries, medicine, gas money, mortgages and student loan payments that would be affected by a $40 biweekly loss.

The “#40dollars” hashtag started by the White House became a trending topic on Twitter for periods during Dec. 20. That means it was listed among the most popular hashtags for the service's 100 million active users.

On the White House's Facebook page, the administration published three Wall posts on “What is $40 mean to you” on Dec. 20 and 21, generating 6,273 comments and 1,957 “likes” as of 3:40 pm on Dec. 21.

The administration has used to publish many of the responses in an easily accessible form.

Social media observers have praised the campaign.

“Twitter has allowed the White House to frame the debate as a fight between workers who benefit from the tax cut and an obstructionist GOP,” Todd Wasserman, business and marketing editor, wrote on on Dec. 21.

“This is no “(Justin) Bieber Fever” level of engagement, although it is enough to get on Twitter's map,” Nick Judd, associate editor, wrote in an article on on Dec. 21. “But it does something that is often hard to do, which is drive action online from people who aren't already actively working for one side or the other of the partisan divide in national politics.”

In addition, the focus on individuals and their personal view of the significance of $40 in their lives added power to the campaign, Judd wrote.

On the other hand, while the White House presumably also sought video input from the public for the campaign, it did not appear that anyone answered that call, Judd noted. A search of on Dec. 21 did not reveal any new videos tagged with “$40.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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