Trump Probably Can't Executive Order Social Security And Medicare Away, But He's Still Gonna Try
This weekend, Donald Trump signed yet another constitutionally questionable executive order declaring a payroll tax holiday for all Americans making under $100,000. While the order in question is merely a deferment — and those who get the benefit will have to pay for it next year — he also said that if he is elected in November, he will make this and other tax cuts permanent.
First one is on providing a payroll tax holiday to Americans earning less than $100,000 per year. In a few moments, I will sign a directive, instructing the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of the employee portion of certain payroll taxes from September 1st. And we're actually going to be making that; we just got the word. We're just getting some word from a lot of people. We didn't think we'd have to do this because we thought the Democrats would be reasonable, but they've been not only unreasonable, they've been ridiculous.
Narrator: The Democrats were not being unreasonable.
If I'm victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax. So I'm going to make them all permanent.
Now, Joe Biden and the Democrats may not want that. They don't want that because they're adding $3 trillion in taxes. So they'll have the option of raising everybody's taxes and taking this away.
But if I win, I may extend and terminate. In other words, I'll extend it beyond the end of the year and terminate the tax. And so, we'll see what happens. Biden probably won't be doing that; you'll have to ask him. I don't think he knows what he's doing.
This is the kind of move that will certainly delight many of his followers — or at least those of his followers who have been convinced by years of right-wing rhetoric that "taxes" are when the government takes the money that decent (white) Americans worked hard for and hands it over to undeserving, lazy poor (nonwhite) people so they can spend it on fancy crab leg dinners. It rarely occurs to them that the taxes benefit them. Even when Social Security and Medicare are listed as categories on their pay stubs.
Social Security and Medicare, in fact, are funded exclusively through payroll taxes. This means cuts to these taxes are cuts to those programs. If Trump were to make these things permanent, there would be no funding for Social Security or Medicare, which many older people currently rely on to survive and which most of us, eventually, will rely on to survive.
Additionally, in his little executive order, Trump cut the unemployment benefit from $600 a week to $400 a week, saying the problem with the $600 number was that it was a "disincentive" to work — which is pretty insulting to the American people.
Q: Sir, why did you decide on $400, when previously families were receiving $600?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q: That will be a hardship for many. What do you say to them?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, no, it's not a hardship. This is the money that they need, this is the money they want, and this gives them a great incentive to go back to work.
So, this was much more than was originally agreed. The 600 was a number that was there. And as you know, they were diff- — there was difficulty with the 600 number because it really was a disincentive.
If Democrats were smart, they'd turn this into "Donald Trump thinks you're BAD! He thinks you're lazy and that you don't even want a job! We think Americans are good and hardworking and we trust you to get a job as soon as you can find one!" but that will never happen.
People are not out of work because they are lazy, they are out of work because there are no jobs for them to work. No matter how motivated or "incentivized" people are, if there aren't jobs, there aren't jobs. If people aren't hiring, they're not hiring. And you know what's going to stall hiring? People not having money to spend on things.
This same logic applies to Social Security. That money doesn't just disappear into the ether, it goes to people who then spend it on things like food and clothes and rent, and when they spend that money, other people make money, and when those people make money ... they can hire people to work for them. Crazy how that works!
People being poor, people not being able to afford food or shelter, isn't just a moral and ethical issue. Sure! Those of us who are decent human beings just don't want to see people starving or homeless, but not everyone feels that way. Callous assholes should be aware of the fact that poverty is bad for the economy and a whole lot of other things that those with quickly clotting hearts actually do care about. Think about it — if Jean Valjean's family hadn't been starving, he never would have needed to steal that loaf of bread and Javert would have been able to do other, perhaps more fulfilling things with his life!
Fantine's Death / Confrontation youtu.be
The fact is, even Republicans don't want this. They may hate Social Security, they may hate Medicare, but they also know that if they try to get rid of them, they will get voted out of office, because enough people rely on them that it matters.
Technically, Trump does not have the ability to actually do anything with regard to the payroll tax. That's Congress's job. While it's not clear whether or not he knows that, he knows his base will be energized by the gesture alone. Whether or not it happens, for him, it's a smart move. If it happens, he gets "credit." If it doesn't happen, it's everyone else's fault.
Unfortunately, the way things are now, Trump could get rid of Social Security and Medicare tomorrow (well, not legally), then tweet that he was the only one trying to save it and that Democrats wanted to take it away, and a certain number of his supporters would happily pretend that was true and then gleefully thank him the next month for their non-existent Social Security checks.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse