What Would You Do With an Extra $40?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The Obama administration has been criticized on occasion for not being adept at communicating its policies to the public, but this week it enjoyed a major success by boiling down a heated debate over extending the payroll tax cut into the simplest and most relatable point for the American people: $40.

Though it might seem random at first, the number represents the estimated amount that a typical family earning $50,000 saved on each paycheck this year thanks to the tax cut and which they would continue to save next year if it were extended. Too often, the problem is that Washington deals in unfathomable numbers in the billions and trillions, so instead the administration chose to focus on this small but significant dollar value, first in a post on the White House home page and later on Twitter by starting a conversation with the hashtag #40dollars. It quickly became a worldwide trending topic.

Now the White House is continuing this successful strategy by highlighting some responses it received online and through Twitter as to what Americans would do with an extra $40 in their pockets. In some cases, the money would cover small things (a bus ticket home for the holidays or a night out at the movies, for instance), but in other cases it has a considerable impact on a family’s quality of life. One woman wrote that the money would be “the difference between having food on the table the next week and not,” while another said that money is what helps pay more of her medical and loan debt each month.

After posing the question on our Facebook page, some MainStreet readers commented that the extra money would go a long way for them too.

Sonja Mollison said that with an extra $1,000 a year – the total amount someone making $50,000 would save annually – she and her family would have enough for “about 6.5 weeks of groceries.” That could easily be the difference in whether a family ends up in the red for the year.

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