Democrats on Sunday ratcheted up their assertion that President Trump's order to suspend payroll taxes will "defund" Social Security without offering relief to millions of unemployed Americans.
On Saturday, speaking to reporters and watched by members of his New Jersey golf club, Trump issued an executive order suspending payroll taxes through the end of the year. And he also promised that, if reelected, he will make the tax freeze permanent.
Florida Democrats immediately seized on the potential ramification of the pledge, which would deprive Social Security of its main funding source.
"Amid yesterday's train wreck of neglect, Trump still manages to needlessly imperil seniors' Social Security and Medicare benefits," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, in a statement. "The only certainties his executive orders deliver are more debt for working families, deeper state and local layoffs and a continuing refusal to address the testing and tracing measures needed to pull us out of this pandemic quagmire."
"The American people desperately need relief," tweeted U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando. "Instead, the president decided to defund Social Security and Medicare."
The American people desperately need relief. Instead, the president decided to defund Social Security and Medicare.
-- Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) August 8, 2020
On Saturday night Boca Raton Democrat U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch blasted Trump's move saying the payroll tax defunds Social Security, potentially hurting the close to 5 million Floridians who count on the entitlement program.
In a statement, Deutch said Trump is "using the pandemic to gut Social Security's funding" and "if he gets a second term, vowed to defund Social Security once and for all."
Deutch added: "The road to the White House runs through Florida and Donald Trump is about to hit a wall of angry senior voters who have just had enough."
Indeed, Americans over the age of 65 traditionally vote at a much higher rate -- 70% -- than voters in younger age groups. And they are a sizeable portion of the Sunshine State's demographics. A 2018 report by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs says Floridians age 65 and older accounted for 20% of the state's population.
In 2016, however, Trump scored a big win among voters over the age of 65, beating rival Hillary Clinton by 17 percentage points in that group. Trump carried the state's 29 electoral votes by just over 100,000 votes.
But a Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters released last month showed Biden leading Trump by three points, 49% to 46%, among older voters. The poll said 80% of people over the age of 65 were paying "a lot" of attention to the presidential race.
Trump has long sought the suspension of payroll taxes as a way to provide Americans a financial lifeline during the pandemic.
But since the taxes are applied to paychecks, economists have uniformly said it would provide no help the close to 50 million unemployed Americans. At most, it would provide a a small boost for those workers still holding a job, they have said.
Trump's Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, said the president's actions put "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."
Biden added that the legality of Trump's executive order was "dubious."
"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," he said.
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.
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