It's A Jolly Tax Holiday With Trumpy
Donald Trump still doesn't quite have a coronavirus-fighting economic stimulus package ready to go yet, but yesterday he floated one possible part of it, telling Republican senators in a closed lunch meeting that he'd really like to cut payroll taxes to zero, at least until the November election. That's precisely the sort of brilliant economic thinking America needs during this public health crisis, since it's clear that the coronavirus only intends to be a problem until November. Or at least that's how long Trump plans to pretend to give two shits about it.
Trump had said Monday that he would roll out a complete economic stimulus plan at a meeting of Mike Pence's coronavirus task force Tuesday afternoon, but that meeting came and went without the "president" showing up. Instead, Trump offered some vague gruntings about a payroll tax holiday that would last through the election, or perhaps even become permanent, because it's not like he plans to keep Social Security and Medicare around if he's reelected.
CNBC notes Trump continued to reassure the public after he met with the GOP senators yesterday:
"Be calm. It's really working out," he said after the meeting, referring to the government's response to the outbreak. "A lot of good things are going to happen."
We'd like to think the eventual movie version would then cut to a scene in which Trump hurriedly throws clothes, money, and half-eaten Big Macs into a suitcase, as he yells at someone to ready the chopper.
Republicans at the lunch said Trump's payroll tax holiday suggestion wasn't exactly full of details. Sen John Thune of South Dakota said, "Until we have a little bit more of an idea of what it is exactly they're asking for, it's hard to react quite yet," which ought to win him an angry tweet sometime soon.
Trump also pitched Republican senators on economic relief for the travel and hospitality industries, which have been hard-hit by coronavirus-related cancellations, said Senator Lindsey Graham.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said reaction to the idea of waiving payroll taxes was "mixed."
Spies and traitors everywhere, huh?
Bloomberg News reports that Trump finally decided he needed to take some kind of action to offset business worries about the effects of the disease outbreak Monday, when the stock market went into the toilet despite Trump's previous strategy of blaming Democrats for scaring Wall Street into thinking a possible global pandemic might be bad for business. Trump's thinking may have been influenced just a little bit by the fact that during the Monday morning flight back from his Florida trash palace, loyal guest Matt Gaetz had isolated himself in a cabin on Air Force One after learning he'd been in contact with CPAC Patient Zero.
So far, though, the payroll tax holiday is hitting skepticism from Republicans who'd prefer more direct help for their favored business pals, and from Democrats who keep pointing out that payroll taxes help pay for Social Security and Medicare. Trump's own economic team, especially Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, didn't support the idea of a payroll tax cut either, at least until Trump came out for it in public, after which Kudlow insisted it was the best idea ever, even if he couldn't offer any details on what the plan was.
Several House Democrats also pointed out that a payroll tax wouldn't do a thing to help those who'd be hit hardest by an economic downturn. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Virginia) said it would make more sense to get money straight into the hands of people whose jobs are affected the most, because for folks who are just getting by, a payroll tax cut doesn't amount to much:
One of the dilemmas with the payroll tax is that … if you've lost your job, or you're in the gig economy, or many other things, you're not going to get [the cut], or if you're like so many Americans making $25,000 or less, that ends up being $10 a week, not enough to really do anything. So among the many things that we must consider to get this stimulus going again … direct payments will be at least part of that.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) was also skeptical that a payroll tax cut would do a lot of good to stabilize the economy, arguing that "low- and moderate-income people" would be helped a lot more by other means: "Unemployment, food stamps, direct payment makes more sense than a payroll tax that takes a long time to have impact."
Which would be all fine and dandy for those people, but they might not even vote for Trump. Don't these Democrats recognize that America needs the kind of economic help that Donald Trump can brag about until election day?
Fox News quickly got on the bandwagon Tuesday, with articles like "What Trump's payroll tax cut would mean for your wallet," and our favorite, which excoriated Democrats for playing politics with Trump's attempt to play politics with a public health crisis:
How's this for weird? The op-ed accused Democrats of being big old hypocrites for supporting Obama's 2009 payroll tax cut, but for some reason it doesn't point out some tiny differences between it and the idea Trump is floating. Like for instance that Obama reduced the payroll tax instead of cutting it to zero, and that his version didn't also reduce employer contributions to zero, which Trump thinks he'd like.
Oh yeah, and Fox sort of leaves out the bit where Obama's payroll tax cut wasn't unveiled eight months before an election in which the economy was the only issue he had going for him. Funny, that.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.