President Trump says he will sign an Executive Order to ease the suffering of those harmed by the pandemic-related shutdowns and to stimulate the economy. Congress has failed to agree on a new package to accomplish these things.
Trump’s Executive Order would include these four components: (1) a payroll tax holiday until the end of the year, (2) an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits until the end of the year, (3) an extension of the eviction moratorium for federal subsidized housing, and (4) a suspension of student loan payments until further notice.
Questions surround the legality of accomplishing at least some of these things via executive order. Trump’s response to that might be, “so sue me.”
There are also questions about the fiscal impact of some of the measures, at least for those who still care about the national debt. In addition, there are questions about the efficacy of a payroll tax cut and the wisdom of extended generous unemployment benefits.
However, as a political matter, Trump’s move looks like a masterstroke. Since the days of FDR, the public has always seemed to approve of presidents who act to ameliorate suffering while Congress diddles. A flurry of activity, even of the futile or potentially counterproductive kind, makes a president look energetic and caring.
In this instance, Trump’s move might well force congressional Democrats to reach a deal. That outcome, too, would be a political win for the president.
UPDATE: Trump has now signed the Order. The obvious displeasure of The Washington Post is further evidence that Trump has made a smart political move.