Trump Continues Fiddling While America Burns

Donald Trump looking pumped on his way to a million-dollar fundraiser in the Hamptons after playing at being president with his faux executive orders.Sonia Moskowitz Gordon/ZUMA

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Donald Trump has issued some executive orders related to coronavirus aid, and I suppose we’re all supposed to take them seriously. But why? To paraphrase an old saying, the stuff that’s legal is unimportant and the stuff that’s important is illegal. It’s just more Trump blather designed to keep the spotlight on him.

But I suppose you want a little more than that. Fine. Here goes:

  1. The first EO provides a $400 unemployment bonus. This is important, but almost certainly not legal. The money is supposed to be transferred from unspent FEMA accounts, which is a transfer that Trump probably can’t make. What’s more, Trump wants states to pick up 25 percent of the cost, and he definitely can’t do that. The Supreme Court made that clear when it struck down Obamacare’s Medicaid mandate. What’s even yet more, even if all this were legal, the money would only last five weeks.
  2. The second EO defers payroll taxes from September through December. This is probably legal, but deeply trivial. The amount of money involved is small. It helps only people who are already employed. And the deferred taxes have to be paid back in a lump sum in January. It’s pointless.
  3. A third EO asks federal agencies to “consider” whether evictions should be temporarily halted. This is obviously legal, but has no impact at all.
  4. Finally, the fourth EO defers student loan payments through the end of the year. This is legal, and maybe even modestly important. However, like the payroll tax deferral, it will primarily help out people who are the most likely to still have jobs.

I am deeply tired of these idiotic Republican games. Because that’s all they seem to be to them: games. There are millions of Americans in deep, deep trouble because of the coronavirus, and they’re in even deeper trouble than they should be thanks to Trump’s gross mismanagement of the crisis. But none of that seems to matter to any of them. Human suffering is just another political lever to be used in service of God only knows what political aim they have at the moment.

It’s all so appalling and loathsome. I can barely stand reading about it any longer, let alone writing about it.

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