UPDATE: Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended the payroll tax. Politifact reports that a suspension would put a lot of pressure on Social Security and Medicare, but does not kill them outright.
Obsessed with destroying Social Security one way or another, Donald Trump is now threatening to suspend the payroll tax unilaterally via executive order.
Since 1935, Social Security has lifted millions of American seniors up and has prevented them from slipping into poverty and homelessness.
The program has been extremely popular and even worked as designed during the Great Recession in 2008 by keeping recipients afloat in the midst of economic collapse.
The United States is now in another recession because of Trump’s economic policies and failed response to the coronavirus. And the economy only stands to get worse. But Trump apparently intends to inflict more pain and devastation upon the country in the form of yet another unconstitutional executive order, this one aimed at Social Security.
During a press briefing, Trump claimed that he has the power to go around Congress and suspend the payroll tax all by himself.
“We are looking at it,” Trump said of the possibility that he could extend unemployment benefits without Congress passing a new stimulus bill. “We’re also looking at various other things that I’m allowed to do under the system, and—such as the payroll tax suspension. And so we’re allowed to do things.”
Trump even has support from one of his favorite right-wing economists, Stephen Moore, whom Trump had once nominated to the Federal Reserve board.
“The IRS already delayed payment of income and other taxes from April 15 until July 15. That order lays out the legal basis for a payroll tax suspension,” Moore wrote for the Wall Street Journal. Moore suggested that Trump could issue such an order by declaring a national emergency.
While Trump is claiming that such a move would only be temporary, it would likely become permanent should he somehow win reelection. Either way, it’s a significant blow to Social Security and a death sentence for the disabled and seniors.
Social Security advocacy organization Social Security Works swiftly condemned Trump’s plan.
“Suspend the Payroll Tax” = DEFUND SOCIAL SECURITY
Defunding Social Security without Congressional approval = Unconstitutional
Hands off our earned benefits! https://t.co/miEBE7oGyx
— SocialSecurityWorks (@SSWorks) August 4, 2020
Considering a major block of Trump’s base just happens to be senior citizens who receive Social Security checks, moving to gut the program has the great potential to backfire on his campaign, which is likely why Congressional Republicans rejected the payroll tax cut in the new stimulus bill. Now is certainly not the time to cut Social Security. But cutting the payroll tax would also hurt Medicare. So Trump would not only be exacerbating an economic crisis by cutting the payroll tax, he would be exacerbating the current healthcare crisis in the middle of the worst pandemic in American history.
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