Let the Pigs Fly!

The president issued some executive orders yesterday at one of his country clubs while being protected at great expense by the Secret Service. The people who write headlines gave us stuff like this from the widely-printed Associated Press:

President Txxxx moves to authorize more unemployment pay and a payroll tax deferral for coronavirus relief

The nation would have been so much better served if there had been headlines like this (I grant you it’s rather long) written by a Republican political consultant:

If you actually needed more proof that the Republican Party was a non-serious party with no interest in governing, Txxxx signing meaningless executive orders he doesn’t understand at a golf club he’s using to scam more taxpayer dollars is pretty much the perfect trifecta.

After almost four years, reporters still write as though this is a normal president doing things that presidents normally do. So we are told that “Txxxx directs Post Office to employ flying pigs in cost-cutting measure” as if Txxxx has the authority to do such a thing and it’s actually going to happen. He gets his headline and appears to be doing something significant. That’s all that matters to him. It’s good publicity.

As time passes, there will be articles analyzing what the president actually did or didn’t do. By then, he will have moved on to his next performance piece. It will turn out, however, that the Post Office, run by one of his cronies, did spend time and money trying to get pigs to fly but, damn it, somehow failed.

We do have Twitter, however. From Paul Krugman:

I don’t know if anyone else has said this, but payroll tax cuts are the hydroxychloroquine of economic policy. They won’t do anything to solve the employment crisis, but will have dangerous side effects.

Yet Txxxx remains obsessed with them as a cure. We’ve lost millions of jobs, not because employers lack incentives to hire, but because many activities, like bars, indoor dining, inessential travel, elective medical care have been put on hold because of the risk of contagion.

Letting employers keep money they were supposed to be paying into Social Security and Medicare — no good reason to believe they’ll pass the savings on to workers — does nothing to remedy this problem.

It will, however, undermine the finances of programs that are absolutely crucial to the lives of older Americans. If you measure the quality of policy ideas on a scale of 1 to 10, this is a minus 5 or worse.

Even Senate Republicans consider this a terrible idea. So where’s Txxxx getting it from? The immediate answer seems to be Stephen Moore, whose previous greatest hits include predicting that tax cuts would create a Kansas economic miracle [Note: Kansas fell apart after severe tax cuts].

Just a word about the other Txxxx “policy”, on unemployment benefits. He is NOT proposing to extend supplemental benefits. He’s calling for a new program, without Congressional authorization, that states are supposed to set up and provide with matching funds.

Two realities here: 1. The administrative capacity of state unemployment offices is stretched to the limit — it took months to provide expanded benefits, and some people never got them. They’re in no position to add a new program.

2. States are also broke because of coronavirus revenue losses and expenses. Even if they could reprogram their COBOL-driven computers fast enough, they wouldn’t have the money.

So this is policy by reality TV: an attempt to pretend that Txxxx is doing something, while providing no real relief. The fact is that Txxxx and those around him don’t know how to do policy.

But they do know how to get publicity.

In spades.

As if pigs began to fly.