From Paul Waldman of The Washington Post:
America, you’re on your own from here on out.
That is the message President Txxxx sent over the weekend with his quartet of executive orders — a quintessential Txxxx non-solution to a monumental problem largely of his own making.
This may be the last significant action — or at least an action that pretends to be significant — that the president takes between now and Election Day to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis it has caused. And it will accomplish almost nothing.
Let’s break it down:
- The supplemental unemployment insurance included in the Cares Act, which provided the 30 million or so Americans who have lost their jobs with an additional $600 a week, has expired. Txxxx’s order claims to restore $300 of that and asks states to chip in another $100. But it establishes a new program that could take months to implement and is potentially unconstitutional anyway, since the power to appropriate money lies with Congress, not the president.
- Txxxx ordered the temporary suspension of payroll tax collection, an action which, if it survives legal challenge, will do practically nothing to help the economy (by definition, people who are unemployed are not on payrolls). It will, however, weaken the Social Security and Medicare systems, which are funded by payroll taxes. As written, his order only defers collection of those taxes, which means employers and employees would have to pay them back later, though Txxxx claimed that if reelected, he would “terminate” the taxes, which he also can’t do.
- Txxxx instructed his administration to “consider” banning evictions at properties with federally owned mortgages. There is an eviction tsunami on its way that could see tens of millions of Americans lose their homes. This does nothing to prevent that.
- Txxxx delayed interest and payment requirements for student loans until the end of the year. This is the only one of the orders that might actually help people.
So in total, these executive orders will have little impact on the economic crisis Americans are facing. But just as Txxxx claims that his handling of the pandemic itself has been a story of unmitigated success, when he performed a signing ceremony before a crowd of dues-paying members at one of his golf clubs, he said the executive orders “will take care of pretty much this entire situation.”
That was the tell. Txxxx took this step because the allegedly masterful dealmaker couldn’t be bothered to work with Congress to arrive at an agreement on a comprehensive rescue package, and now he will simply say that his work is done.
So much of how Txxxx operates was evident in this episode: claiming powers he doesn’t actually possess, issuing orders of questionable legality, lying about what they do, claiming to solve problems he hasn’t actually solved, creating worse problems over the long term and doing it because he wasn’t up to the hard work of governing. The fact that he essentially turned the announcement into an ad for one of his golf clubs — yet again seeking a way to use his office to benefit his personal financial interests — was the icing on the cake.
From this point forward, when asked about the pandemic, Txxxx will say as he has so many times before that he has done a terrific job and everything is as good as it could be. Yet while many of our peer countries are beginning to return to normal life, the United States could reach more than 200,000 deaths from covid-19 by Election Day at current rates, along with millions more infections (and as we’re learning, many people who survive the illness are left with a long and difficult recovery).
In the same way, when he’s asked about the continued economic misery in the country, he’ll say: I solved it — don’t you remember those executive orders? Everyone is thanking me because the economy is doing so great now.
Meanwhile, so many needs that an actual rescue bill ought to address are going unmet: real aid for the unemployed, aid to states and localities to save their imperiled budgets that are already leading to layoffs and slashed services, aid to schools, aid to the Postal Service that the president seems to be trying to hobble, genuine eviction protections, money to enable states to conduct a safe and secure election in November and so much more.
It’s still possible for Congress to pass such a bill, even if the president thinks it’s no longer necessary. Perhaps Republicans who have been so reluctant to provide too much assistance to the country will realize that Txxxx’s spin isn’t working and their own survival could depend on not giving up quite yet on arriving at an agreement.
All those lost lives and shattered families and shuttered businesses can’t be waved away with an absurd ceremony at a golf club. Txxxx may think they can, but the rest of us have to confront reality. And it’s only getting worse.
Fortune’s site has a “comprehensive guide to voting in all 50 states”. It’s time to register if you aren’t and then vote Democratic when you can.
You can see if you’re registered here.