The Washington Times - December 5, 2011, 04:54PM

In the not-so-distant past, White House spokesman Jay Carney gave media organizations a hard time for using debt-ceiling countdown clocks to illustrate the urgency involved in this summer’s high stakes budget negotiations.

But on Monday, Mr. Carney conducted a briefing with reporters in between two large screens that ticked down the days, hours, minutes and seconds left before the Social Security payroll tax cut expires Dec. 31.


Several times during the briefing, Mr. Carney gestured to the clocks to punctuate his points about the dire need for Congress to extend the payroll tax cut or face the political risk of raising taxes on 160 million middle-class Americans.

The countdown clock is also prominently displayed at the top of the White House website.

There’s a big difference between the two clocks, Mr. Carney said Monday.

“Let’s be clear. The issue we had with the debt-ceiling countdown clock is that it was sending a — it could have a negative impact in raising the specter, which we hoped would never be raised, of the United States defaulting on its obligations, which would have the impact, if it were to come to pass, of causing global economic chaos,” Mr. Carney said.

“This is quite different. This is about whether or not 160 million Americans, working-class, middle-class Americans, are going to have their taxes go up on January 1st because Congress refuses to act — or rather, in this case, the Senate and House Republicans refuse to act,” he added.