Trump executive orders threaten SWFL seniors’ Social Security benefits

When debt becomes a realitySocial Security recipients ponder the future of their benefits following Trump’s executive order.

Aug. 10, 2020 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida seniors receiving Social Security payments and dependent on Medicare healthcare insurance are likely to suffer from President Donald Trump’s weakening of the social safety net programs in one of his latest executive orders.

The order, in the form of a memorandum to the Secretary of the Treasury, was one of four signed by Trump on Saturday, Aug. 8.

The memorandum directs the Secretary of the Treasury to “defer the withholding, deposit, and payment” of payroll taxes paid by people who make less than $4,000 per week ($104,000 per year) for the rest of the year.

Collection of the taxes is deferred, not eliminated, and they will be due in the following year. However, the memorandum directs the Secretary of the Treasury to “explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes…”

These taxes pay for Social Security and Medicare. If eliminated, they would effectively end the programs.

Trump stated at the signing ceremony at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ, that he would seek to eliminate the payroll tax if he is re-elected.

(The other three documents signed by Trump provide $300 per week for eligible recipients for lost wages due to coronavirus using disaster relief funds (generically called unemployment benefits) plus $100 of state funds, minimize foreclosures and evictions, and waive collection of federal student loans for the rest of the year.)

Trump’s order on payroll taxes circumvents Congress’ role in setting tax policy and came in for immediate fire from critics. Members of the House and Senate had been negotiating the next coronavirus relief package. The previous unemployment benefit had been $600 per week.

In a joint statement, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted Trump’s action, stating: “We’re disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans’ problems, the President instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors’ Social Security and Medicare.”

Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), stated:  “Social Security is more crucial than ever as Americans face the one-two punch of the coronavirus’s health and economic consequences. But, this approach exacerbates people’s already-heightened fears and concerns about their financial and retirement security. Social Security’s guaranteed benefits are indispensable. Families impacted by coronavirus urgently need help, and we believe bipartisan congressional action on another coronavirus aid bill is the right solution.”

Florida Democrats immediately denounced Trump’s actions.

“Amid yesterday’s train wreck of neglect, Trump still manages to needlessly imperil seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz  (D-23-Fla.) said in a statement.

Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.), tweeted that “The American people desperately need relief. Instead, the president decided to defund Social Security and Medicare.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-22-Fla.) stated that 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.” He noted: “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.”

In Southwest Florida, 19th Congressional District Democratic congressional candidate David Holden tweeted: “First of all, Trump does not control the purse. Secondly, we CANNOT tolerate raiding Social Security under the guise of pandemic relief. This is a ploy. We need direct cash relief to every American (yes, even the ones married to undocumented folks) now.”

Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai stated: “I’m dismayed by Trump’s executive overreach into the legislative process. The president doesn’t have the authority to fund programs, only Congress does, leaving many components of his most recent executive order unconstitutional. I’m particularly worried about the attack on Social Security and Medicare, which people in Southwest Florida rely on heavily. We must protect these vital programs, and our democracy, from the whims of a vanity president.”

As of this writing, none of Southwest Florida’s representatives in the 19th, 25th and 17th congressional districts had commented on the executive actions.

Of the nine Republican candidates running in the 19th Congressional District, only Darren Aquino responded to a request for comment, issuing a statement saying that he “stands with President Trump’s executive orders and President Trump’s refusal to remain hostage to the do-nothing Democrats.” He stated that the payroll tax cut was necessary to give workers extra money and as a member of  Congress, he “promises to pass legislation that will forgive all deferred payroll tax payments.”

Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson retweeted a Trump tweet simply announcing the action.

While precise public figures on the number of Social Security recipients in Lee and Collier counties were not immediately available, according to 2018 Census statistics, 28.6 percent of Lee County’s 618,754 people are 65 or older (which works out to 174,488 people). Of Collier County’s 321,521 people, 32.2 percent are 65 or older (103,530 people). Both counties’ populations have been steadily increasing.

According to DataUSA, a private consortium that repackages government data, 14.7 percent of Lee County’s population is on Medicaid and 20.8 percent is on Medicare. In Collier County that is 12 percent on Medicaid, 24.9 percent on Medicare.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg






Trump budget harms SWFL seniors, Medicare, Social Security; local politicos react–or not

02-11-20 Trump budgetCongressional staffers unpack fiscal year 2021 budget documents.

Feb. 11, 2020 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida seniors are likely to suffer if President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget request is enacted as proposed.

The president’s $4.8 trillion budget, officially unveiled yesterday, Feb. 10, would cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Medicare spending would be reduced by 7 percent or $756 billion between 2021 and 2030. Doctors, hospitals and hospices would receive lower reimbursement rates for the services they provide.

Two Social Security programs, SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which pays monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older, would lose $75 billion over the same period, with $10 billion in cuts coming from retroactive benefits a person can receive after he or she is considered disabled.

Other programs important to seniors like Meals on Wheels, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Senior Community Service Employment Program and legal services for seniors would be cut or eliminated.

These cuts and reductions would fall heavily in Lee and Collier counties, which have double the national percentage of people 65 or older.

According to 2018 Census statistics, 28.6 percent of Lee County’s 618,754 people are 65 or older (which works out to 174,488 people). Of Collier County’s 321,521 people, 32.2 percent are 65 or older (103,530 people). Both counties’ populations have been steadily increasing.

According to DataUSA, a private consortium that repackages government data, 14.7 percent of Lee County’s population is on Medicaid and 20.8 percent is on Medicare. In Collier County that is 12 percent on Medicaid, 24.9 percent on Medicare.

These are significant populations that could be significantly, adversely affected by Trump’s proposed budget cuts.

Southwest Florida reactions

This will be Trump’s last budget proposal before the 2020 election, making it particularly significant and politically impactful.

However, reaction in Southwest Florida from both candidates and sitting representatives was surprisingly mixed.

The only congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District to immediately comment was Democrat Cindy Banyai.

“The thing that is so disappointing about the #TrumpBudget and every similar austere fiscally conservative move, is that SS, Medicare are macroeconomic drivers that other countries wish they had. Funding only the ‘deserving’ is crippling,” she tweeted as soon as the budget was released.

Among Republican candidates for the 19th District seat only State Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) issued any sort of comment at all and his was a generic partisan tweet urging people to vote Republican if they believe in strong borders, lower taxes, low oil prices, law enforcement and the military. He made no mention of the budget or the cuts to social safety net programs.

Sitting SWFL Republican members of Congress were active on Twitter as the budget was released—but each addressed topics as far from the budget and constituent impacts as possible.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was concerned with events in El Salvador: “Reports of armed police and soldiers entering #ElSalvador’s National Assembly are deeply concerning. I urge all sides to come together in a peaceful and constructive manner to address the needs of the Salvadoran people,” he tweeted at the time.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) thanked President Trump for funding Everglades restoration. “As my colleagues from the Everglades Caucus & I stated in our recent letter to POTUS, the #Everglades is a national treasure & fundamental to Florida’s economy. I thank @POTUS  for including the requested $250 million in his proposed budget to Congress.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) was more concerned with the costs of investigating President Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors: “Now that @realDonaldTrump has been acquitted, I am proud to announce I am co-sponsoring the SHAM Act. It is time we audit that entire bogus process to figure out exactly how much taxpayer money was wasted.” (The Statement of Harm to the American Majority Act or SHAM Act, House Resolution 5769, would initiate an audit of the costs of the presidential impeachment inquiry.)

On a national level, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) issued a statement saying: “President Trump’s latest budget continues his relentless attacks on the health and economic security of hard-working Americans.  It is a complete reversal of the promises he made in the campaign and a contradiction of the statements he made at the State of the Union.”

When it came to social safety net programs affecting seniors, Pelosi stated: “President Trump has broken his promises to seniors and families by slashing half a trillion dollars from Medicare, taking $900 billion from the lifeline of Medicaid, and cutting Social Security Disability Insurance.”

She concluded: “The federal budget is supposed to be a statement of national values.  Once again, the President is showing just how little he values the good health, financial security and well-being of hard-working American families.  The President’s budget is anti-growth, does not create good-paying jobs and increases the national debt.”

The budget proposal will now be considered by the House of Representatives, where it is likely to be substantially altered.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Trump tariffs poised to impoverish seniors, retirees in SWFL and nationwide

RetiredSand and surf may soon be all that’s affordable for SWFL’s seniors.

May 16, 2019 by David Silverberg

Tariffs of 25 percent imposed by President Donald Trump on 5,000 different Chinese goods will likely raise consumer prices across the board, with especially devastating impacts on people with fixed incomes like senior citizens and retirees.

This is likely to be particularly painful in Southwest Florida with its high proportion of fixed-income residents.

According to the US Census Bureau, of Lee County’s 754,610 residents (as of July 1, 2018), 28 percent were 65 years old or older, thus likely to be on a fixed income. Of Collier County’s 378,488 residents in the same period, 31.5 percent were 65 years old or older.

Trump’s escalation of his trade war with China, China’s retaliation and the current impasse in negotiations will likely result in higher prices on all goods, including groceries. A wide variety of goods are affected and product categories include raw materials for manufacturers, cars, electronics (vacuums, televisions), large appliances (washers, driers, air conditioners), clocks and watches, furniture and bedding, glassware and ceramics, precious jewelry and head gear.

Brett Biggs, Walmart’s chief financial officer, warned that consumers would feel the pain. “As we have said before, our goal is to be the low-price leader,” he said on CNBC today.  “We want to manage margins with customers and shareholders in mind. We have mitigation strategies that have been in place for months. But increased tariffs will increase prices for customers.”

Grocery items affected include fruits, nuts, vegetables, meats, pasta and breads.

“As is so often the case, the weak will only get weaker as a result of the higher prices that these tariffs will bring. Lower-income Americans, small businesses and retailers already stressed will feel the pain most,” wrote Pamela Danziger, retail reporter for Forbes.

While Social Security may see a 1.7 percent cost of living adjustment next year, it may not cover the cost of goods if they rise too high. The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group for senior citizens and Social Security recipients, found in a report released on Monday, May 13, that despite cost of living increases since the year 2000, Social Security benefits have actually lost 33 percent of their buying power since then.

“One would think that a higher cost-of-living adjustment in 2019, combined with relatively low inflation, would lead to an improvement of buying power in Social Security benefits,” Mary Johnson, a Social Security policy analyst for the League and the study’s author explained in a statement accompanying the report.  “But any improvement was offset by spiking costs of essentials, including out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs.”

Those expenditures will likely soon include anything manufactured or imported from China.

Liberty lives in light

© 2019 by David Silverberg