Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and served as a counselor to Clinton in the White House. He is the author of the new book, “You’re Fired: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN)Is Donald Trump trying to lose this election? Seriously, is he self-destructing because somewhere, deep inside his tortured soul he knows he is an unworthy, incompetent, poseur?
Paul BegalaNaaah. But his executive action suspending collection of payroll taxes hands the Democrats the kind of issue that can sink a candidacy. It is nothing less than a declaration of war on Social Security and Medicare. The payroll tax funds those two vital and beloved programs. When you suspend collection of the revenue that funds those two programs, you endanger their viability. Say it with me, Democrats: Donald Trump wants to gut Medicare and Social Security. The Center for American Progress jumped on this like a duck on a June bug. Even before Trump announced his executive order and three memorandums on Saturday, CAP was out with a memo slamming the President. CAP says that if his scheme works it “would divert hundreds of billions from Social Security and Medicare.” Every Democrat should repeat that. Read MoreTrump is an impulsive, impetuous man; that we know. But on the issue of cutting Social Security and Medicare, this is not his first attempt. His 2021 and 2020 budgets each proposed deep and painful cuts in Social Security and Medicare. How deep? How painful? $2 trillion over ten years, according to the Wall Street Journal. What a coincidence: that’s about how much Trump’s 2017 tax cut for corporate America cost. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Trump’s corporate tax cut has a price tag of $1.9 trillion. Donald Trump's five revealing words While hanging out with the forgotten upper class in the globalist hangout of Davos, Switzerland in January, Trump said he was open to cutting entitlements— in other words, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He even said, “that’s actually the easiest of all things.” In March, he returned to his desire to cut entitlements, telling a Fox News town hall meeting, “Oh, we’ll be cutting.” Trump did not specify which programs he was referring to, but the big ticket items are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits. He later tweeted that he would not cut Medicare or Social Security, but as we have learned, Trump’s tweets are often not worth the pixels they’re printed on. Democrats can run on this and win. I was so confident of this — even before Trump’s latest attempt to gut Social Security and Medicare, that I devote an entire chapter of my new book (YOU’RE FIRED: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump) to begging Democrats to run on Trump’s attempts to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The title of the chapter is: “This Chapter Will Beat Trump: I Guarantee It.” Even the conservative National Taxpayers Union Foundation is dubious of Trump’s payroll tax suspension — but for different reasons. Joe Bishop-Henchman, vice president of tax policy and litigation, wrote, “there are many potential legal challenges associated with a unilateral Presidential payroll tax suspension… Without detailed answers to some of these questions, employers might just steer clear of all of it by continuing to do what they’ve always done, blunting the desired economic impact of reducing taxes.” Be careful what you wish for, Mr. President Other dubious Trump executive memorandums seek to suspend collection of student loan debt, postpone evictions and extend unemployment benefits. The unemployment benefits order is especially galling, as it requires states to foot one-fourth of the bill; the same states he is refusing to aid as they stare at a revenue collapse that could compel them to cut schools, hospitals and other vital services. Beyond that, Trump is offering out of work Americans just $400 extra per week, a significant cut from the $600 they’ve been getting. Why the cut? “There was a difficulty with the 600 number because it really was a disincentive,” Trump said. He means that people who get an extra six hundred bucks to keep body and soul together during this Covid crash will suddenly become lazy and refuse to go back to work. That is an insult to every working woman and man, and Democrats should call Trump out on it. Get our free weekly newsletter
Sign up for CNN Opinion’s new newsletter.
The President seems to believe $600 a week is too generous. Meanwhile, he gets free housing, free health care, a free helicopter and a jumbo jet. Oh, and his family charged the taxpayers nearly $1 million to house Secret Service and other federal employees at Trump-owned properties. So, Democrats can point out, $600 is too much for you, but a million bucks is just fine for the Trump family. Fittingly, Trump issued his order and memorandums at his Bedminster, New Jersey country club, where the initiation fee is reportedly $350,000 — yet another proof-point that Trump’s heart is really with the Forgotten Upper Class.