On Saturday Donald Trump claimed he would impose (apparently by some hidden appropriations power that he does not Constitutionally possess) a “payroll tax holiday,” which would purportedly defer the payroll tax for certain employed Americans through December, as a means of financial assistance for individuals and families coping with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. This action appears patently illegal, as the power to levy taxes or change the tax code resides in the Congress under Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, but let’s for the moment pretend it is legal and Trump does have the authority to declare such a “holiday” through the end of the year.
All of this means is exactly what his “order” says–that the taxes are deferred through December. As Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo points out here, those taxes are still due next year, and in fact many workers would find themselves socked with exorbitant and unexpected tax bills next year assuming their employers don’t choose to simply withhold the tax themselves, since they’re responsible for seeing that it gets paid.
As noted here by Rocky Mengle of Kiplinger:
The executive order only suspends payroll taxes – it doesn’t eliminate them. It would take Congressional action to actually wipe out the tax debt. As a result, some employers might continue withholding payroll taxes from their workers’ paychecks to avoid a large bill when the taxes eventually become due (a bill that they could have to pay themselves or by withholding a large amount from paychecks later).
So basically workers are being screwed here. The taxes, assuming they are deferred and not withheld by employers, to begin with, have to be paid back. So this is all a gimmick. A con, but par for the course with Trump.
But wait, there’s more. Someone evidently reminded Trump that the taxes would have to be paid anyway. So in his speech on Saturday, Trump said that if he was re-elected, he would make those tax cuts permanent.
“If I’m victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax,” Trump said at a news conference in Bedminster, N.J. “I’m going to make them all permanent.”
The media jumped all over that, of course, because it sounded like Trump was proposing eliminating the payroll tax completely, which would defund Social Security. But his loyal flying monkey Mnuchin quickly rushed to Fox News on Sunday to quash that interpretation and reinforce what Trump said in that speech. As reported in Forbes:
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday that, if reelected, Trump would “push through legislation to forgive that so, in essence, it will turn into a payroll tax cut,” adding the lost revenue would be offset by “an automatic contribution from the general fund to those trusts funds.”
So what Trump and his monkey, Mnuchin are saying is if, and only if he’s re-elected, will he forgive those payroll taxes. If he’s not re-elected, he won’t. Both he and Mnuchin were very specific about that: “If I’m victorious on November 3rd…”
Did you catch that? In the blink of an eye, we went from a simple grift to something closer to extortion. He gives Americans extra money that by law they’re going to have to pay back, and the only way they’re going to avoid paying it back, he says, is by re-electing him. He’s holding his gift to Americans hostage, with the implicit threat that if they don’t vote for him, they’ll end up with nothing. If he’s not re-elected, he clearly feels like he owes Americans nothing and just walks away, leaving them holding the bag on tax day, 2021.
Oh, and you’ll just have to trust him on that “making it permanent” shtick.
This is the behavior of a reflexive criminal mind in action. Assuming he actually possesses the power he claims to have, he could have said that he’d amend his so-called “order” itself to include automatic forgiveness for the cuts. Or he could have said he’d take further action to have them forgiven in December—or whenever– regardless if he won or lost. One interpretation might be that he just wants to dump the decision on Joe Biden if he loses. But whether Biden wins or not in November makes no difference to what he’s able to do either before the election or as a lame duck.
But this way those payroll tax cuts are all contingent on Americans putting him back in the White House: “You do this for me or I’ll walk away and you’re screwed.”
These aren’t the actions of someone who’s serious about helping desperate Americans in need in the midst of a horrific pandemic. They are the actions of someone who is only it it for themselves. someone who will stab Americans in the back if it suits his interests, and isn’t afraid to tell Americans that while trying to extort their votes.
In other words, the actions of a criminal.