“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Those famous words, spoken by US Navy Admiral David Farragut on his way to winning the Battle of Mobile Bay, might as well have come from President Trump this past weekend.
Trump has pressed Congress to compromise – for months – on a combination of personal and corporate relief for struggling Americans. His negotiators worked week on week – to no effect.
On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) thought she had him over a barrel. She got her leftist caucus to pass a massive $3.5 trillion bill. Disingenuously, she called it the “HEROES” act, another feckless Washington acronym, that fooled no one. It reeks of unfunded giveaways, inducements to dependence on government, in a word, socialism.
Ironically, the name was “to honor those on the front lines,” even as Democrats pressed defunding the police, which endangers everyone from state and local police to first responders and those trying to manage social unrest in the health, transit, and other sectors.
Beyond extending the $600 a week federal top-up of state unemployment benefits, which disincentivizes return to work, Pelosi used the bill to bail out bankrupt public unions in Democrat-led states, give up to $6000 to families, expand Obamacare, pay mortgages and rents, increase federal entitlements like “SNAP” (food stamps), and pre-set mail-in federal elections.
The 1,800-page Pelosi bill ramped up Post Office spending, underwrote a vote-by-mail campaign and same day registrations, textbook for mismanagement and fraud – as evidenced by Democrat primaries. To this, she added senseless, indefensible spending. On whose nickel? Yours.
President Trump issued a veto threat, explaining the bill amounted to a “longstanding partisan and ideological wish list.” Senator McConnell (R-Ky) called it “unsalvageable,” filled with “absurdities.” https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pelosi-tries-to-rally-support-for-3t-coronavirus-relief-bill-in-face-of-veto-threat-gop-ridicule.
Pelosi ignored the Republicans. In fine Washington tradition, she pushed for everything – causing her caucus and Senate Democrats to crater everything. She and Senate Democrats blocked compromise on stimulus, while stiff-arming black Republican Senator Tim Scott’s (R-SC) attempt to secure a thoughtful police transparency bill. In short, dead and dead.
Pelosi and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thought they had Republicans – and President Trump – in a corner. They would get Trump to fold, win their goodies, advance socialism, dependence, and debt – or blame Trump for no stimulus and a wobbly economy.
Trump tried – he really did. He worked on a compromise for weeks, sent Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin, and half the Administration looking for light. But there was no light to be found or joy to be had. The Democrats refused compromise.
In truth, they had no interest. Pelosi doubled down, saying she would not put a price tag on the bill, then said Republicans did not “give a damn” about those in need, and flayed an NPR reporter who dared ask why she could not compromise, as Republicans were being “flexible.”
No, like her arrogant, intransigent, take-it-or-leave-it, socialist House caucus, Pelosi gave no quarter. She was happy to launch torpedoes, create a minefield that worked against the American people – if it would also impair the President. Her bloated stimulus package was a campaign document, never had a chance of passage.
So, what did President Trump do? After trying – with his top-tier negotiating team – to reach sensible compromise, he said “enough.” On August 8, he signed four executive actions into law. They will lift the economy, help taxpayers and businesses, save trillions in what would have been mass overspending – and give a firm “no” to Pelosi’s socialism.
Specifically, the four executive actions – which may be challenged, but to no end – will “extend unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes, and offer federal eviction and student loan relief,” while setting the stage for compromise on side issues. Call it, “art of the deal.”
As a result, “enhanced unemployment benefits” will continue at $400 per week, not the work-killing $600 dollars a week. States are authorized to cover 25 percent of that, from previously awarded federal aid. This will be a lifeline for some, help others return to work, and bridge the gap to recovery. Notably, the economy unexpectedly created 1.8 million new jobs in July.
Second, Trump directed Treasury “to allow employers to defer payment of employee-side Social Security payroll taxes through the end of 2020,” for those earning below $100,000. Third, he authorized forgiveness of deferred payroll taxes, and pledged to make permanent “payroll tax cuts” if reelected. Finally, responding to public urgency, he froze evictions from federal housing and “paused” student loan payments through yearend. See, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/511186-trump-signs-orders-on-unemployment-benefits-payroll-tax-after-talks
So, what just happened – in practical, economic, and political terms? In practical terms, the President tried in good faith to reach compromise, demonstrating again that deals can only be made when both sides act in good faith – and congressional Democrats had no interest.
In practical terms too, Trump saved millions of individuals and families, small businesses, those in federal housing and struggling students continued stress. He offered real relief – because that is what they needed. He showed, when push comes to shove, he cares about people – not games.
In economic terms, even if challenged, the move is a shot in the arm for America’s economy – in two ways. First, people will have a backstop, less worry, with more seeking jobs, finding work, spending, and creating jobs with new consumption. Second, by forestalling more federal debt – Trump gave the Federal Reserve and future generations less to fret.
In political terms, Trump took the initiative, showed leadership. Some will say that was bold, but Trump is Trump. Trump’s patience – with dissembling Democrats, who impeach and implore, pretend they are for the front lines but defund police, pass “unsalvageable” bills – ran short.
If Pelosi and Schumer want to play games and lay mines, let their anti-Trump animus run wild, so be it. Trump will keep getting things done. In a nod to Admiral Farragut and the Battle of Mobile Bay, President Trump seemed to say: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”