Fact checking the fact checkers: Trump does indeed plan to destroy Social Security

Via The Hill | Though few seem to realize it, Trump has provided the nation with a roadmap of how he could unilaterally destroy Social Security, without the need for Congress, once the election is over.

Only a veto-proof majority in Congress would have the power to stop him. It is not clear that someone would have standing to bring a lawsuit. And even if a plaintiff were found to have standing, the Supreme Court has found that similar statutory language of the Internal Revenue Code gives Trump “broad discretion.” (Indeed, a concurring opinion characterizes the discretion as “free from judicial scrutiny.”)

Appropriately, the Biden campaign ran a completely accurate ad identifying Trump’s threat to Social Security. In response, the Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, insisted that the ad was false. To come to that conclusion, Kessler quibbles over the meaning of the word “plan.”

If I plan to go to the store, that is a plan. Indeed, Trump said himself, “I plan to…make permanent cuts to the payroll tax.” But against all logic, Kessler says that Trump’s plan “doesn’t exist” and holds the Biden ad false, in true Orwellian fashion, because it refers to Trump’s plan as Trump’s plan.

Kessler also takes issue with the Biden campaign for taking Trump’s words literally. He deviates from the facts and makes unjustifiable assumptions to fit his conclusion that the Biden ad is somehow false.

Kessler claims that if Trump sought to terminate Social Security contributions, “one would presume that any forgiveness [of the contributions] would be accompanied by [general revenue] transfers.” [Emphasis added.] I, for one, presume the opposite, and for good reason. Congress would have to spend an extra trillion dollars each and every year to make up for the terminated contributions. (Even forgiving just the already deferred contributions would require a transfer of more than $100 billion.)

Kessler gratuitously and unfairly disparages Democratic efforts to sound the alarm about the Trump threat. The piece calls the effort by Democrats to have the Social Security Administration spell out the impact of Trump’s plan as “playing some mischief.”

Mouthing a Republican talking point, Kessler complains, “Without fail during a tough election season, Democrats bring up Social Security.” As if talking about Social Security is somehow inappropriate, at a time when voters must decide whether to vote for a Democrat who promises to expand Social Security or a Republican who threatens to radically transform it.

Kessler even goes so far as to defend Trump with an obvious lie, writing, “As an executive order, Trump’s action does not have the force of law.” Those targeted by Trump’s executive order banning travel from predominantly Muslim countries would certainly rate Kessler’s claim as false!

Of course, Trump’s deferral of Social Security contributions has the force of law. What Kessler apparently meant is that the action Trump has already taken includes no sanctions if employers fail to comply. But that has nothing to do with the legally binding nature of Trump’s actions.

Kessler’s false statement about the legally binding nature of executive action appears to be a ham-handed attempt to reassure supporters of Social Security that Trump’s words should not be taken seriously. There are no facts whatsoever to provide that reassurance. Quite the contrary.

Presumably knowing how far out on a limb he crawled, Kessler concludes with this ridiculous CYA move: “If Trump yet again opens the door to permanent elimination of the payroll tax, we will revisit this fact check.” I guess that means that if Trump says what he said enough times, the Biden ad will be accurate after all!

Full column: The Hill »

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