July 31 was the day the pandemic unemployment assistance – that sweet $600 a week extra keeping the out of work living high on the hog – officially expired. Congress had given themselves a deadline of Friday, August 7 to pass the next piece of Coronavirus relief, but they just couldn’t get it together. While members of Congress were busy blaming each other for the failure to act, President Trump signed an executive order and three memoranda to continue the various relief measures that had either just expired or soon would. Both Democrats and the establishment media, of course, lost their minds.
No Love From the Left
“Trump’s order to bypass Congress on coronavirus relief faces likely legal challenges,” reads a Los Angeles Times headline – though it shows up in search results as “Trump signs questionable directives on COVID-19 relief.” Then there’s this one from The Washington Post: “Trump attempts to wrest tax and spending powers from Congress with new executive actions.” NPR tweeted that the “previous enhanced unemployment benefits added $600 a week to standard state unemployment benefits. But Trump’s executive action would cut it to $400 and require states to fund 25% of it.”
Of course, while we’re on the topic of Twitter, we can’t forget about Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). The president acted, so you know Schiff had to offer his two cents. Here’s his response:
“Trump’s executive orders from the golf club:
Cut unemployment benefits for millions.
Reduce funding for Social Security and Medicare.
Do nothing to treat the virus, open schools, or help people.
What’s next for Trump while millions of Americans suffer?
The back nine.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wasn’t impressed with the presidential action, either. “Today’s meager announcements show President Trump still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families,” she said. “These policies provide little real help for families.”
But all these nay-sayers seem to be forgetting something …
Something Is More Than Nothing
While the Democrats and left-wing media criticize the president for offering a mere $400 a week extra to the 30 million or so Americans claiming unemployment, that is $400 a week more than the $0 Congress approved.
The Democrats wanted to extend the $600 a week, but Republicans were worried about continuing to pay people more than they made at work. Why go back to your job if you get paid more to stay at home? The GOP’s offering was an additional $200 a week through September. After that, people would receive federal assistance totaling 70% of their lost wages, up to $500 a week.
That $200 a week on top of state unemployment then 70% of the lost income – again, on top of the state benefits – is a good deal more than nothing. That also provides much less incentive to remain out of work. But it wasn’t good enough, and evidently neither is Trump’s $400.
Let that sink in for a moment. Rather than accept something, they opted for nothing. Congress’ inaction caused the precious $600 a week to expire on July 31 – but, somehow, it’s Trump who “cut unemployment benefits for millions,” as Rep. Schiff put it.
Now let’s have a look at the left’s other complaint: Trump is overstepping and stealing power from Congress. It isn’t in the president’s authority, so they say, to reinstate the federal spending for the unemployment benefits or to defer the income tax for anyone making under $100,000 a year. In case you didn’t catch that contradiction yet: Trump doesn’t have the authority to order another $400 a week for those on unemployment, and his order is weak – and millions will suffer – because he didn’t bring back the full $600.
In what world does being less than $600 make $400 or even $200 worse than $0?
Anything for the White House
As far as the left is concerned, Donald Trump and his racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. (surely you get it by now) followers stole the 2016 election. The Democrats are laser-focused on righting that wrong – not to mention gunning for the 23 Senate seats up for grabs that are currently occupied by Republicans. And in the world of politics during an election year, that’s the only reason those 30 million or so Americans matter. It isn’t because they really need that money and all of Congress is willing to do whatever it takes to help them. It’s that if they remain unemployed and broke, it’s a bad look for Donald Trump – a president who, before Coronavirus, boasted significant economic wins.
There’s simply too much at stake for Democrats to work with their colleagues across the aisle or the president. But they aren’t the only ones throwing stones and keeping an eye on the election. The president got off a dig at the Democrats in his Memorandum on Authorizing the Other Needs Assistance Program for Major Disaster Declarations Related to Coronavirus Disease 2019. As he explained:
“Because many of the relief programs created by Congress have expired or will shortly expire, my Administration and the Republican leadership in the United States Senate have proposed multiple options to continue to provide needed relief to Americans. But Democratic Members of Congress have twice blocked temporary extensions of supplemental unemployment benefits. Political games that harm American lives are unacceptable, especially during a global pandemic, and therefore I am taking action to provide financial security to Americans.”
At the End of the Day …
All told, the president added $300 a week federal funds to unemployment, with the states expected to pay the other $100, though it can come from federal funds already given to the states. He ordered payroll taxes to be deferred from September 1 through the rest of the year for anyone making less than $100,000 – he plans to forgive the debt and make the cut permanent if he wins re-election – and he extended the 0% interest rate for federal student loans. He has also directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider whether temporarily stopping residential evictions would be a reasonable measure to prevent the spread of Coronavirus from state to state.
Whether President Trump is acting outside of his authority or not, there will be challenges to each of these actions, especially the ones dealing with unemployment and payroll taxes. It’s entirely possible that taxes will still be owed and that the federal unemployment benefits simply won’t come.
Whatever the outcome, we can also expect much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the anti-Trump crowd throughout the whole process – or at least until election day – perhaps even with a little rending of garments and hair thrown in for good measure. At the end of the day, these four executive actions may all come to naught. Or, they could end up being what keeps folks afloat until either Congress gets it together or the American people are allowed to go back to taking care of themselves.
Read more from James Fite.