COVID-19: Seniors Rip Trump for Tying Relief to Social Security Cuts

The U.S. president has stirred outcry after saying any additional stimulus package must include his long-desired payroll tax cut, Jake Johnson reports. 


By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

Grassroots advocacy groups representing millions of retirees and seniors across the United States are speaking out against and urging Congress to oppose President Donald Trump’s threat to block desperately needed Covid-19 relief legislation if it does not slash the payroll tax, which funds Social Security and Medicare.

“It is outrageous, callous, and cruel for President Trump to hold the American people, and seniors in particular, hostage if Congress doesn’t go along with his plan to gut Social Security for current and future retirees,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, an organization with over 4 million members nationwide.

“The president’s plan is also bad economics. Social Security puts more than $800 billion into the economy each year. Destabilizing the system when we are in the middle of an economic downturn is exactly the opposite of what we need to do,” Fiesta added. “The 4.4 million members of the Alliance for Retired Americans call on all members of Congress to refuse to make such a deal. We will fight this attempt to gut Social Security and in November we will remember who was willing to defend and protect our earned benefits.”

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During a Fox News town hall Sunday night, Trump said he would oppose any additional coronavirus stimulus package that does not include his long-desired payroll tax cut, which would provide zero direct relief to the more than 30 million Americans who have lost their jobs over the past six weeks. The president suggested at a press briefing last month that the tax cut should be permanent.

“We’re not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut,” Trump said Sunday, just days after vowing to protect Social Security and Medicare.

Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement Monday that Trump’s remarks “set off alarm bells for America’s seniors and their advocates.”

President Donald Trump participates in a FOX News Channel virtual town hall at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (White House, Shealah Craighead)

“Make no mistake: by pushing to cut off the program’s funding stream, President Trump is taking the first step toward dismantling Social Security,” said Richtman. “The president’s campaign to eliminate payroll taxes is a violation of his patently false promises to seniors ‘not to touch’ Social Security. This proposal goes way beyond ‘touching.’ Choking off Social Security’s funding stream is an existential threat to seniors’ earned benefits.”

The multi-trillion-dollar CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in late March, contains a provision allowing employers to delay payment of the payroll tax for at least the duration of 2020.

Advocates warned at the time that the provision, which replaces payroll tax revenue with general revenue, represents a fundamental threat to Social Security’s long-term financial health. Nancy Altman, president of advocacy group Social Security Works, predicted that Republicans will “undoubtedly use the general revenue to demand cuts to Social Security in the name of ‘reining in entitlements.'”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a proponent of Social Security cuts, hinted in that direction last month, declaring that “the future of our country in terms of the amount of debt that we’re adding up is a matter of genuine concern.”

In a statement on Monday, Altman said the president’s relentless push for a payroll tax cut shows “how desperately Trump and the right-wing ideologues surrounding him want to defund Social Security, so they have an excuse down the road to demand cuts to our earned benefits.”

“Trump’s actions are a war on seniors,” said Altman. “He wants to open up the economy, even though Covid-19 is disproportionately costing seniors their lives. Now he is insisting on threatening Social Security on which most seniors rely for their food, medicine, and other basic necessities. Members of Congress, particularly House Democrats, need to stand strong and call Trump’s bluff.”

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep

This article is from Common Dreams.

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10 comments for “COVID-19: Seniors Rip Trump for Tying Relief to Social Security Cuts

  1. Tim
    May 8, 2020 at 22:06

    Trump is now one, and a recent one, among a chorus of people who are a ‘clear and present danger’ to the stability of the United States of America but Trump needs to be removed now.

  2. May 8, 2020 at 13:54

    Once again the emphasis is on what Trump is “going” to do, or what his opponents SAY he intends to do. As heretofore noted, Obama did the same thing and to say Biden wouldn’t is pure speculation, with all evidence to the direct contrary. How about we concentrate on the problem we have right here, right now? TEMPORARY tax relief will help small businesses such as mine immensely, without driving the program off a cliff. Remember, when you paid your SSM&M you only paid HALF. Your EMPLOYERS paid the other half, coming right out of our bottom line. I am within a year or so of retirement, and it sure would be nice if I still had a company to sell to do it! And I would be out of my mind to want anything to happen to the program, which I hope to begin using soon.

    • May 8, 2020 at 13:57

      BTW neither I, any of my employees, nor my business have gotten one dime of help so far. For once those ripping big corporations have got it right.

  3. Susan
    May 8, 2020 at 09:01

    I have paid into Social Security for over 50 years – this is my money, not the government’s, so keep your grubby paws off!!!

  4. Diana Farris
    May 8, 2020 at 01:09

    Why not? That’s precisely what President Obama did when Biden was Vice-President:

    AP with
    Published 9:51 AM ET Fri, 23 Dec 2011 Updated 6:08 PM ET Fri, 23 Dec 2011

    “President Obama signed legislation Friday extending a payroll tax cut for two months, concluding an end-of-year drama that split Republicans and threatened a tax hike on 160 million Americans.

    Obama acted after the House and Senate approved the tax cut extension, which will maintain the Social Security tax at 4.2 percent.”

    • dean 1000
      May 8, 2020 at 16:54

      Why not? Because it was a bad idea when Obama & congress did it for 2 months. It is a worse idea now because it will last for 6 months when so many workers are laid off and don’t have a payroll tax saving to spend because they laid off and don’t have a paycheck. So it won’t stimulate the economy as much.

      Also the greatest savings ( according to the NWT dtd 3.12.2020) will go to people making up to $250,000 a year. They will bank most of it as they already have everything they want, so little to no stimulus for the economy.

      Better to repeal Trump’s 2017 tax cut on the rich for the duration of the pandemic. Congress could then provide more relief to laid off workers who would spend directly into the economy.

      Trump also promised he would not touch Social Security and Medicare. The least ideological part of his base will will oppose Social security & medicare cuts.

    • Diana Farris
      May 9, 2020 at 03:40

      Sorry, Dean 1000. My comment was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reply to Drew Hunkins’ assertion that Joe Biden would never suggest cuts to Social Security. Unfortunately, I hit the submit button twice, creating two comments. Apparently, I deleted the one that would have appeared as a reply to Drew.

      You are absolutely correct…it was a bad idea then, and it’s a bad idea now!

  5. Drew Hunkins
    May 7, 2020 at 17:39

    “…Nancy Altman, president of advocacy group Social Security Works, predicted that Republicans will “undoubtedly use the general revenue to demand cuts to Social Security in the name of ‘reining in entitlements.’”…”

    And Joe Biden would never dare suggest cuts to Social Security, never.

  6. Richard Coleman
    May 7, 2020 at 17:22

    Uh huh. And what is the response of Bernie, the Squad, and the rest of the g-d democrats?

  7. rgl
    May 7, 2020 at 15:15

    Everybody wants everything, however, nobody is willing to pay for anything.

    The political system that promotes tax cuts to the general population will be the one who gets the votes. This has lead to the US having one of the … ahem … less than perfect education systems, and arguably the worst health care systems in the galaxy.

    Privatizing everything for profit. Look around you. How has that worked out for you? Are you afraid to cross a bridge these days? You should be.

    Citizens United. A corporation is considered a person?? Really?? This is nothing more than a method of getting millions of dollars injected into the political process, corrupting it utterly. How many Congress members are millionaires? How many houses does Pelosi own?

    Annnnnd militarism. A Department of Defence (isn’t that laughable?), with a budget that surpasses the next seven largest countries military budgets combined, and yells for more each year.

    Giving seniors – who in large part, worked their entire life without the tax loopholes available for the ultra-rich – is considered a crime by those very same ultra-rich and the politicians in their pockets.

    Just … wow.

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