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Americans Tell President Obama What $40 Means

Thousands of Americans responded to the President's request, sending photos, tweets, and emails that illustrate just how important decisions made in Washington are to regular people across the country

President Obama today asked Americans to share their stories, and tell him what losing $40 per paycheck would mean to their family. Thousands responded, sending us photos, tweets, and emails that illustrate just how important decisions made in Washington are to regular people across the country.

At the end of this month, a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut will expire. If Congress doesn't act, taxes will go up on 160 million hardworking Americans. For a family making about $50,000 a year, the payroll tax cut amounts to about $1,000 a year, or about $40 in every paycheck.  It may not seem like a lot of money to some people, but for the people who wrote to us today, that money can make a big difference. Here are some of their stories:

Please, consider that many people like my family live by paycheck only, we cannot even have extra money for emergencies, because living life in this country is so expensive that our paycheck goes to pay rent, bills, and food, and sometimes we don't even have for food. So, please DO NOT take that extra $40.00 taxes cut from our paycheck. -- Brenda from California




To me and my family, $40 is the difference between opportunity and misfortune. When you include registration fees, uniforms, and expenses for equipment, travel and food, extracurricular activities alone can exceed $40 a paycheck (particularly if that money is divided over more than one child). Activities like baseball, martial arts, or community theater are far too important to children's health, development, and well-being to not be apart of their lives. But when it comes down to paying bills and for essentials or extracurricular activities, all one can say is "sorry kids, no baseball this year"! -- Eric from South Carolina



With my paycheck being the sole source of income for our family, $40 means EVERYTHING to us.  Having $40 means we can afford groceries in those last few days before my next paycheck so we won't go hungry.  It means I can put a FEW gallons of gas in my car to make it to work for the next few days. It means I can afford a copay should my son need to see a doctor.  It means we MAY be able to afford a prescription should we be prescribed one.  We have done a short sale on our home, cut our budgets back to bare minimum, have relinquished all luxuries in our life but, yet still get up each day with the hope of something better. So, what does $40 mean to me?  It means the difference between a healthy happy family that can sleep at night with a full stomach or having to tell my son that we may all have to go to bed hungry. -- Amanda from Virginia


$40.00 means the world to my family and I. When the paycheck ends before the second week has begun, $40 is the difference between paying the mortgage or the light bill.  We don't live beyond our means, our cars are paid for. We remodel our home, and maintain the cars ourselves and we work hard for what we have.  For Thanksgiving we hosted over 40 friends and relatives.  Not because we had that luxury, but because we invited everyone to bring a dish because we knew they couldn't afford the entire meal.  We never thought we would get so many.  Too many of our friends and family members have been devastated by the current economic downfall of this country.  Many own/owned their own business and all are hard working decent Americans.  Many, like myself, worked or were/are affiliated with both state and federal government agencies.  We know all too well about politics and government spending.  Some of our friends and associates  are very wealthy and continue to be compensated far too well.  $40 for us, that's $960 for the year or groceries for three months, five months of electric bills.  When you're financially capable, $40 dollars is a night out at the movies, but for us and too many Americans, it is groceries for three months.  

Now with 10 grandchildren, our 6 kids still respectfully rely on our support from time to time.  We remember when we could hand them $40 each to go to the movies with high school friends on a Saturday.  Now, $40 assists them with groceries for the week. We continue to motivate them, and we try to keep everyone's spirits high with "it will get better if we just stick together until it gets better".   -- Michael from Maryland

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