“Warning sign, warning sign
I hear it, but I pay it no mind
Hear my voice, hear my voice
It’s saying something and it’s not very nice
Pay attention, pay attention
I’m talking to you and I hope you’re concentrating
I’ve got money now, I’ve got money now
Come on, baby, come on, baby”
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— Talking Heads – “Warning Sign”
If you didn’t interpret Donald Trump’s move yesterday to impose his own dismal and likely ineffective solutions to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the American economy — an economy that he loves to claim credit for when it’s doing well — as a “warning sign of things to come,” you may be missing out on the true significance of the president’s “Hail Mary” play.
While some people may simply be so desperate for money for food and housing at this point that they are willing to ignore the implications of Trump’s actions yesterday afternoon, a closer examination of the controversial move by the president shows at least five ways in which his attempt to govern by executive fiat is damaging to our nation.
Firstly, there is the issue of the constitutionality of the orders.
The U.S. Constitution clearly places the responsibility for the levying of taxes and the appropriations of that revenue in the hands of the two houses of Congress, not with the executive branch.
Any attempt by Trump to ignore the constitutional order is justifiably seen by many as the first step on the road to fascist, totalitarian rule by a wanna-be dictator with a lack of patience, poor impulse control, and a self-serving agenda.
The presidential proclamation is also likely to be delayed in its implementation after being caught up in lengthy court battles because of its dubious legality, limiting its utility as an “emergency” solution when time is of the essence.
Secondly, Trump’s payroll tax deferral proclamation completely undermines the financial structure that funds Social Security and Medicare.
This portion of the president’s executive order is likely the first step in achieving a goal — shared by Republican plotters since the days of FDR’s New Deal in the case of Social Security and since LBJ’s Great Society in the case of Medicare— to eliminate the federal role in social services.
An odd move by a president who will need the votes of seniors to win the November election, but Trump likely thinks his appearance of decisive action will overcome any deeper thoughts about the ultimate motivation for this action.
Thirdly, the actions being put in place won’t actually resolve the major economic problems — nor the medical issues — caused by the pandemic.
While the extra $400 added to unemployment benefits is better than nothing, it is a third less than the previous $600 supplement, and, since it relies on cash-strapped state governments agreeing to contribute a $100 to the federal government’s $300 contribution, it is far from guaranteed.
Moreover, the payroll tax deferral — which neither Democrats nor Republicans in Congress thought was a worthwhile idea — will only benefit those who have currently have jobs, hardly the people who need assistance the most right now.
The fact that it is merely a deferral, and not an elimination of the payroll deductions, means that workers will have to pay their contributions to the system at some undetermined point in the future, proving that any temporary cash flow benefit will be both short-lived and ultimately more painful.
The move does allow Trump to boast that he put more money in some people’s pockets between now and the November elections and have his minions dangle the carrot of a permanent cut of the deductions if he and Senate Republicans are re-elected in November — as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin intimated today on Fox News — while neglecting to mention that such a move would be akin to slitting the throat of the universally popular long-standing social safety-net programs.
Fourthly, Trump’s executive order will delay or prevent Democrats and Republicans in Congress from reaching a legitimate deal to pass lawful legislation to address the pandemic crises.
With at least a portion of the public tuned out to the legalities and ulterior motivations behind Trump’s move, the pressure is off the Republican party to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution in an urgent manner.
Nor will many Republicans be willing, even at this point in the pandemic, to be seen as opposing their nominal, if certifiable, leader when such opposition carries a political risk to their own electoral opportunities.
Fifthly, Trump’s orders may be seen by enough people as decisive action rather than the constitutional overreach that it truly is to begin a turnaround in his electoral fortunes.
The entire rationale behind the president’s executive orders is to try to salvage a re-election bid that has been faltering badly as deaths related to COVID-19 soar and unemployment reaches levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
If enough people are bamboozled by Trump’s Trojan horse scheme here to turn the electoral tide, then America faces a heretofore unthinkable protect: four more years of a president who has torn the nation apart and presided over an unprecedented decline in our nation’s fortunes, both literally and figuratively.
“Warning sign of things to come
It happened before, it will happen again
Hear my voice”
— Talking Heads – “Warning Sign”
Hear my voice.
This dictatorial move from Donald Trump must be opposed and stopped.
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