Monday, May 4, 2020
Contact: Linda Benesch, [email protected]

Trump: No Coronavirus Aid Unless Congress Agrees to Undermine Social Security

(Washington, DC) — The following is a statement from Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, in response to Donald Trump stating at yesterday’s Fox News townhall that he will block all coronavirus response measures unless they include cuts to the payroll tax, whose revenue is dedicated to Social Security:

“More than 30 million Americans are newly unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Their paychecks are gone, but their rent, utility, grocery bills and other expenses still must be paid. Seniors in nursing homes are dying at alarming rates.  Hospitals are desperate, as are state and local governments.

Americans everywhere need immediate assistance, but Donald Trump has now vowed that they won’t get any — unless Congress bows to his demand to cut Social Security’s payroll tax.

Payroll tax cuts waste money, delivering the wealthy and powerful the largest cuts while providing nothing to those who need it most, as this linked chart reveals. They are slow and inefficient. But they do reduce Social Security’s dedicated funding, a longstanding right-wing ideological goal. That presumably is why Trump is insisting on them.

Trump made it clear weeks ago that his obsession with cutting payroll contributions has nothing to do with the coronavirus or the resulting economic fallout. He said he’d like a “permanent” reduction in payroll contributions, and that he’d support it “regardless” of the current situation. He has also said he wants to cut Social Security once he is re-elected.

There are dozens of far superior proposals for relief from the economic turmoil caused by coronavirus. These include making the one-time CARES Act emergency payments ongoing and increasing their amountexpanding Social Security benefits, and  having Medicare cover everyone’s health care during the pandemic.

Yet Trump now says he’d hold everything hostage — these proposals, as well as immediate assistance targeted to front-line workers, hospitals, and local governments. He insists he won’t sign anything unless he gets his payroll tax cut. That’s 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. 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. Send the wildly popular measures mentioned above to Trump’s desk, without including a toxic payroll tax cut. Political realities will force him to back down.”