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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

The Trump White House has found a new way to dress up the old right-wing cause of dismantling Social Security.

According to an April 9 report by the Associated Press, The Trump administration and House Republicans are looking at repealing the payroll tax as a way to put several thousand dollars a year more into the checkbooks of working- and lower-middle-class households. This 12.4 percent tax, split evenly between employers and employees funds Social Security. The self-employed pay the full 12.4 percent tax.

“White House aides say the goal is to cut tax rates sharply enough to improve the economic picture in depressed rural and industrial pockets of the country where many Trump voters live,” the AP report said. “The administration so far has swatted down alternative ways for raising revenues, such as a carbon tax, to offset lower rates.”

The AP report said this was one of several tax reform proposals that White House and congressional Republicans have mentioned when studying tax-reform options. Stung by the failure of the House’s first attempt to repeal Obamacare, the White House is taking a more active role in shaping a major tax reform bill, the AP said.

A payroll cut “would give a worker earning $60,000 a year an additional $3,720 in take-home pay, a possible win that lawmakers could highlight back in their districts even though it would involve changing the funding mechanism for Social Security,” the AP reported, citing a lobbyist “who asked for anonymity” to discuss “early negotiations.”

It is hard to know if this report is an intended leak—an old Washington tradition to float ideas to gauge reaction before taking a public stance, or a serious proposal that would fulfill House Speaker Paul Ryan’s long-held goal turning Social Security into a hybrid public-private system, where Americans would give some of their savings to Wall Street to invest. Wall St. has long coveted those billions.

Conservative Republicans have been targeting Social Security for decades, saying it and Medicare are bankrupting the government. That’s always been cover for not raising taxes on a variety of income-producing activities from the wealthy. Yet they persist, saying that Social Security is not sustainable because in 2033 a spike in the baby boom generation will require an infusion of funds or a 20 percent benefit cut. The program is not allowed to operate in the red.

The politics of repealing the payroll tax as part of a bigger corporate tax cut are transparent. The GOP would be hoping that many Americans would take money in the short run and not look at the longer-term impact of destroying the nation’s foremost senior safety net, which, if anything need to be better funded to increase benefits to keep up with the cost of living.

The GOP may be hoping that offering something appealing to lower-income voters will divert the focus from the multi-billions at stake in cutting corporate taxes. Those sums, such as all the corporate income kept offshore to avoid paying taxes, could be used to bolster safety nets. In the meantime, Trump has refused to release his tax returns, which, once public, would show Americans a vast array of tax-avoidance schemes and techniques that only the rich can access and use.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

President Trump and former Vice President Biden at first 2020 presidential debate

Screenshot from C-Span YouTube

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Donald Trump is claiming that he will still debate despite the rule change that will cut off the candidates' microphones while their opponent delivers his initial two-minute response to each of the debate's topics. But everything else Trump and his campaign are saying sounds like they're laying the groundwork to back out.

"I will participate," Trump told reporters Monday night. "But it's very unfair that they changed the topics and it's very unfair that again we have an anchor who's totally biased." At his Arizona rally Monday, Trump attacked moderator Kristen Welker as a "radical Democrat" and claimed she had "deleted her entire account," which is false. Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, went further in his whining about the debate.

Stepien touted a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates as "Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission)." That letter came before the CPD announced that it would mute microphones for portions of the debate in response to Trump's constant interruptions at the first debate, though Stepien knew such a decision was likely coming, writing, "It is our understanding from media reports that you will soon be holding an internal meeting to discuss other possible rule changes, such as granting an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate's microphone. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden."

Shooooot, here I thought it was generous to Trump that the microphones will only be cut to give each candidate two uninterrupted minutes, leaving Trump the remainder of each 15-minute debate segment to interrupt.

But what did Stepien mean by "other possible rule changes," you ask? What was the first rule change? Well, it wasn't one. Stepien wrote to strongly complain that "We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the 'Foreign Policy Debate' in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign many months ago." Welker's announced topics include "Fighting COVID-19, American families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership," Stepien complained, using this as a launching pad to attack Biden on foreign policy.

Except this debate was never billed as a foreign policy debate. It's true that in past years, the third debate has sometimes focused on foreign policy, but here in 2020, the CPD's original announcement of debate formats and moderators said of the third debate, "The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate," and the first debate "will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator."

So even before the CPD finalized the decision to prevent Trump from interrupting for two minutes in each of six segments, so 12 minutes out of a 90-minute debate, Team Trump was falsely complaining that the debate was rigged. No wonder—as a Biden campaign spokesman noted, the Trump campaign is upset "because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response."

Trump has lost one debate and backed out of one debate. If he goes into this one with the attitude he's showing now—attacking the moderator, attacking the topics, enraged that he can't interrupt for two entire minutes at a time—he's going to lose this one, badly, once again hurting his already weak reelection prospects. So which will it be? Back out and have that be the story, or alienate one of the largest audiences of the entire presidential campaign by showing what kind of person he is?