Wyden: Trump orders on jobless benefits 'a ploy,' and 'a fake tax cut'
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is among the chorus of critics of President Donald Trump's new executive orders that Wyden says will not result in extending unemployment benefits or reducing payroll taxes on workers.
Wyden is the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which writes tax legislation, including the original provision for a supplemental $600-per-week federal payment on top of regular unemployment benefits.
But that provision expired July 31 — in Oregon, for the week ending July 25 — and Democrats have been stalled in negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff. The Senate's majority Republicans are not directly involved; GOP leader Mitch McConnell says a sizable number of Republicans do not want to exceed $1 trillion in the next coronavirus relief plan.
No more talks were planned.
Trump signed orders Saturday, Aug. 8, to extend the supplemental benefits — but by only $400 per week, and only if states draw $100 of that amount from their own unemployment trust funds — and to provide for a temporary reduction in payroll taxes that employers and employees pay into Social Security and Medicare.
The Democratic-led House passed a $3 trillion plan May 15 to extend the $600-per-week supplemental benefits through Dec. 31. The plan does not propose a payroll tax reduction, which has drawn little support from either party in Congress.
Wyden said that only the Democratic plan promises quicker relief, given that computer systems of workforce agencies in many states — including Oregon — cannot handle complex changes.
He said in a statement:
"While Democrats want to reinstate the $600 federal boost, this ploy would cut it by one-third. It would throw already overburdened state unemployment insurance programs into chaos, making it harder to get benefits out the door.
"I've heard grave concerns from states about this proposal and they are simply going to opt out. Their budgets have been crushed. They cannot afford a 25% match, especially when unemployment trust funds are under tremendous strain and Republicans oppose funding for state and local governments.
"If Donald Trump was serious about wanting to reinstate unemployment benefits rather than sell snake oil, his people would quit stonewalling and negotiate a deal with Democrats that meets the needs of American families."
Wyden was equally critical of Trump's payroll tax cut, saying that it amounts only to a postponement of taxes that eventually will be collected from employers and employees.
"Donald Trump's scheme could also drain the Social Security trust fund for a fake tax cut.
"While employers are unlikely to risk a massive tax liability by not collecting payroll taxes or having to double up collection later, if they do go along with this stunt, it would drain the Social Security trust fund. This fake tax cut would also be a big shock to workers who thought they were getting a tax cut when it was only a delay. These workers would be hit with much bigger payments down the road.
"In the interim, workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own would get nothing, and workers who have lost shifts and tips would get little help."
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