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article imageOp-Ed: Trump's executive orders on COVID — Too little, too late

By Karen Graham     Aug 11, 2020 in Politics
U.S. President Donald Trump’s weekend attempt to sidestep stalled congressional negotiations over the next coronavirus aid package will do little to boost the economy, experts say. And any political gains will be short-lived, say GOP strategists.
The supposed political gains from Trump's executive order and memorandum introduced on Saturday to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus will likely be short-lived and will end up hurting his reelection, according to one GOP strategist, reports NBC News.
“It’s too real and present in people’s lives to paper over with talking points or promises,” said Brendan Buck, a Republican communications strategist who served as a top adviser to former Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “If these executive orders don’t really solve the economic crisis, and I doubt they will, then it will only end up hurting him in the long run.”
Trump's laundry list of actions included temporarily extended unemployment benefits at a reduced amount of $400 a week, deferred payroll taxes for some workers, suspending federal student loan payments and potentially providing eviction relief.
Trump is using the $44 billion in funds allocated by Congress for natural disaster relief, an unwise move, seeing as the wildfire season and the Atlantic hurricane season is ramping up.
And all this sounds good, but will they actually provide economic relief that is so badly needed during this public health crisis? First, there are the legal questions that need to be overcome. Secondly, just how much will this relief actually provide?
Addressing the constitutionality of the executive orders is going to lead to a long drawn-out fight in the courts, especially when we have a series of checks and balances in our government. Article I, section 9, clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution states that "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law..." This is what gives Congress the power to make these appropriations.
Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, calculated the orders could provide just over $400 billion in total relief. JPMorgan Chase economist Michael Feroli wrote in an email note on Monday that the initiatives could contribute “less than $100 billion” in stimulus, according to Reuters.
Unemployment benefits may be iffy
Of course, unemployment benefits are sorely needed by the nation's 16.3 million jobless workers, according to CBS News. However, it could take weeks to get anything and what an unemployed worker receives may be less than the advertised amount.
As CBS News explains, if the orders get that far, it will take a considerable amount of time for states to set up the new systems. Secondly, the states that agree to the new orders will need to put up 25 percent of the $400 weekly unemployment benefit. Reality check? Some states just don't have the funding to provide that extra $100.
That is the tragedy — workers are expecting to get this because the president promised it to them," said Michelle Evermore, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. "It's going to be a real challenge for states to say they can get this up and running."
Payroll tax holiday?
Trump's action to defer an employees’ share of the Social Security payroll tax from September through December is not expected to make any difference to a worker's withholdings, because the same amount of money will still be due by the end of the year. By law, federal payroll taxes are earmarked for Social Security and Medicare.
"It is far from clear that the payroll tax holiday will achieve its intended objective of, as the president said, 'saving American jobs and provide relief to the American workers,’” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com, said in a statement.
“First, the action is a deferral of these taxes, not an elimination of them. So, the bill is still due, it just isn’t due in the short-term. Let’s remember it is the unemployed who need help, not so much Americans who are still working and who’d get the benefit.”
And Trump made the bold move of saying if he were elected, he would extend the payroll tax cuts, although he did not say how — or what he would do to offset any potential impact on Social Security funding.
Evictions and student loan deferrals
The freeze on federal student loan payments is supposed to expire on September 30 this year. Trump's measure would extend the freeze to the end of the year.
The step could save borrowers $15 billion to $20 billion, Zandi estimates. “For the students that’s a big deal, but for the macro economy in a crisis, it’s really not meaningful.”
Evictions, on the other hand, will not stop with the president's measures. All Trump's order did was to instruct some federal agencies to “consider” whether an extension of the temporary ban might be needed to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The order also called on other departments to look for available federal funding that could possibly be used to aid anyone, renter or homeowner, struggling to pay for housing because of conditions created by the pandemic.
According to NBC News, there is nothing in the president's order that "would stop landlords from taking action against delinquent tenants — now, or in the future." So far, it could be said that Trump's questionable accomplishments are too little, too late.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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