Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has hit back against President Donald Trump's open threat on Saturday to permanently cut the payroll tax which funds both Social Security and Medicare, two of the nation's most popular and vital safety net programs.
Even as White House officials on Sunday did their best to walk back Trump's clear-as-day pronouncement that he permanently "terminate" the payroll tax if reelected in November, Biden in a statement Saturday evening said: "Make no mistake: Donald Trump said today that if he is re-elected, he will defund Social Security."
"For months, Trump has golfed rather than negotiated, and sown division rather than pull people together to get a package passed." —Joe BidenWhile Republicans have refused to budge from their demands to drastically diminish a far-reaching Covid-19 relief package presented by Democrats, Biden in a statement characterized Trump's announced executive orders on Saturday—which experts and critics have roundly rebuked as not only "legally dubious" but wholly inadequate to the pandemic crisis at hand—as a "series of half-baked measures" that include "a first shot in a new, reckless war" on Social Security and Medicare and an order on jobless benefits that "will do nothing cuts, chaos, and confusion to our system of unemployment insurance."
Biden accused Trump of "putting Social Security at grave risk at a time when seniors are suffering the overwhelming impact of a pandemic he has failed to get under control," and denounced the president's failed leadership from day the first day of the pandemic through to the present.
"For months, Trump has golfed rather than negotiated, and sown division rather than pull people together to get a package passed," Biden said. "Now, instead of staying in Washington and working with Republicans and Democrats to reach a bipartisan deal, President Trump is at his golf club in New Jersey signing a series of dubious executive orders."
Biden added: "This is no art of the deal. This is not presidential leadership. These orders are not real solutions. They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures. do far more harm than good."
While Biden was repeatedly hit by critics during the Democratic primary for his less-than-impressive record when it comes to defending the social safety net during his long career in Congress, progressive advocacy groups like Social Security Works on Sunday applauded Biden for his promise to defend the program against an attack by Trump:
As Common Dreams reported earlier Sunday, progressives have offered detailed critiques and condemnation of each of the orders that taken together amount to nothing but a "cruel joke" and a "sham" solution presented to the American people.
The attack on Social Security has sparked specific alarm, with defenders of the program vowing to do whatever it takes to make sure Trump—as well as any Republican who fails to vocally denounce such efforts—to pay a massive political price at the polls in November.
Trump couldn't make a deal with Congress so he decided to pretend he was a dictator and the first thing he did was defund Social Security— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 8, 2020
"Seniors pay for their housing, food, and medicine with their Social Security, putting $1 trillion into our economy every year," said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. "Older Americans have earned their benefits through a lifetime of work. Their retirement should not be put at risk because President Trump is mad at Congress for not bending to his will."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden's former rival for the Democratic nomination and one of Congress' most outspoken defenders of Social Security, said Saturday night that Trump is quite mistaken if he thinks such a threat as Saturday would not be understood for what it was. Sanders tweeted:
Today, Trump announced that if he is re-elected he will permanently defund Social Security. That may make sense to the billionaires at his country club, but it makes zero sense to me.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 9, 2020
No, Mr. President. We will not let you destroy Social Security. We will defeat you – badly.
In a statement on Saturday immediately after Trump's statement, Social Security Works president Nancy Altman said the American people must ensure that it's not only Trump held to account for what he has now threatened to do.
"Voters should treat any Senator or Representative who is silent as complicit in destroying Social Security," Altman said. "Furthermore, every American who cares about Social Security's future must do everything they can to ensure that Trump does not get a second term."