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President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin participate in a video conference with representatives of large banks and credit card companies about more financial assistance for small businesses in the Roosevelt Room at the White House April 7, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Trump Call for Permanent Payroll Tax Cut Is "Code for Gutting Social Security's Dedicated Funding," Say Critics

"Nothing to do with helping workers and everything to do with undermining Social Security."

Jake Johnson

President Donald Trump on Tuesday once again voiced his support for slashing the payroll tax—the primary funding mechanism for Social Security and Medicare—and said he would be calling for such a cut even if the U.S. were not currently in the midst of a nationwide public health and economic emergency.

"I would love to see a payroll tax cut," Trump, who has repeatedly vowed to "save" Social Security, said at the end of the Coronavirus Task Force briefing Tuesday evening. "I think on behalf of the people it would be quick... There are many people who would like to see it as a permanent tax cut."

Trump himself has also backed the idea of permanently cutting the payroll tax in talks with Republican lawmakers.

"The payroll tax cut would be a great thing for this country," Trump added after claiming that congressional Democrats are standing in the way. "I would like to have it regardless of [the coronavirus crisis]."

Progressive advocacy group Social Security Works raised alarm about Trump's remarks on Twitter, warning that the president's "so-called 'payroll tax holiday' has nothing to do with helping workers and everything to do with undermining Social Security."

"Trump wants to permanently cut payroll contributions—code for gutting Social Security's dedicated funding as an pretext to demand benefit cuts," the group said.

Watch Trump's comments:

"What a confession," Dan Froomkin, editor of Press Watch, said of Trump's admission that he would be pushing for a payroll tax cut even in the absence of an economic crisis. "He just likes the idea of cutting payments to the Social Security system."

As Common Dreams reported, the coronavirus stimulus legislation Trump signed into law late last month includes a provision allowing employers to stop paying into Social Security for at least the rest of the year. Progressives condemned the little-noticed provision as an "insidious" attack on Social Security that could imperil the New Deal-era program's long-term funding.

"If Trump and Republicans retain power after November's elections, they will make sure that corporations never repay Social Security," Michael Phelan, deputy director of Social Security Works, said last month. "Then, Republicans will use the reduced trust fund as an excuse to destroy our Social Security system."

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the Trump White House is considering proposing a payroll tax cut—as well as a capital gains tax cut—as part of an additional coronavirus stimulus package.


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