Trump’s Executive Orders Make for Interesting Election Strategy

Donald Trump and Screenshots of Tweets in the Background

However one may feel about Donald Trump’s performance as President; it’s hard to deny that he’s decent at “playing the game.” Whether the more strategic moves are his own ideas or (more likely) those of his inner circle, is a fair question — but ultimately immaterial.

What matters is that the incumbent, and his campaign, knows how to put the Democrats in a tight spot in the court of public opinion.

This time, the President is hoping to capitalize on Congress’s irresponsible inability to come to terms on a new economic stimulus package as the effects of the pandemic continue to wreak havoc throughout the country.

Just as he threatened on Friday — after both parties’ leadership failed, once again, to come to terms on a stimulus bill to provide assistance to the nation’s biggest victims of the coronavirus — the President started his weekend taking unilateral action and bypassing Congress with four executive orders and memorandums.

According to Trump, one executive order and three presidential memorandums to federal agencies will do the following:

  1. Defer the payroll tax until the end of the year.
  2. Extend enhanced unemployment benefits until the end of the year.
  3. Defer student loan payments and forgive interest indefinitely.
  4. Reinstate a federal moratorium on evictions.

Of course, whether these actions are legal or ACTUALLY capable of providing necessary relief to Americans as the White House claims is another question altogether. In terms of the 2020 presidential election, they may not have to – although, if not, Republicans may be playing with fire.

This game of back-and-forth is far from over…

Stimulus Negotiations in Congress

The benefits provided to Americans in the CARES Act – a $2 trillion coronavirus pandemic relief package – expired on July 31. While the vast majority of the stimulus dollars went to large corporations and Wall St, there were several measures in the bill keeping displaced workers, small businesses, and state and local governments afloat.

As a byproduct of the nationwide stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, roughly 40-million American workers were either laid off, furloughed, or suffered permanent job loss. Provisions in the stimulus package provided most people with a one-time $1,200 check and an additional $600 per week in unemployment insurance (over what they’d already usually receive).

The enhanced unemployment payments were crucial in helping people cover rent, utilities, food, and other necessities while they were forced to stay home and not work – to no fault of their own. While the extra $600 did provide some citizens with more money than they made at their jobs, it also circulated through the economy, keeping restaurants and businesses hanging on by a thread afloat.

Eviction moratoriums were lifted in most states on July 31 as well.

The expiration date came and went, and now – nearly two weeks after lapsing – Congress has yet to sign a new bill.

Without those funds, the US economy is entering a devastating downward spiral.

  • 40-million Americans are now facing eviction;
  • in states like Florida, Texas, Nevada, and New York, an estimated 50% of tenants will soon be unable to make their rent;
  • 29.3 million households reported to the Census Bureau in July that they “sometimes or often do not have enough to eat;”
  • state and local economies devastated by a lack of tourism and spending are being forced to cut payrolls, putting another five million or so jobs at risk; and
  • substantially less cash reaching unemployed people’s hands means significantly less spending, which will spiral into more job loss and more suffering.
This is an economic disaster of apocalyptic proportions – and neither side is willing to stop playing politics and pass a new stimulus bill to mitigate the damage.

Republican leadership wants to reduce the $600 weekly unemployment enhancements to $200 or 60-70% of their original income. The line they’ve consistently repeated is, “We’re going to make sure that we don’t pay people more money to stay home than go to work,” as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.

Of course, that logic assumes workers stayed home and took advantage over choosing to work, which the data does not suggest. There just aren’t many jobs available; however, applications-submitted-per-vacancy has jumped considerably, showing that people are trying to find work.

The Democrats stupidly gave up most of their leverage in March.

They handed GOP leadership every pro-corporate measure they wished for, including many trillions of dollars to Wall St, big banks, and bad actors. For example, Boeing was handed over $17 billion after using every bit of profit earned for years on stock buybacks to enrich executives and major shareholders.

Now, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the rest of the free-market fundamentalist ghouls have little reason to negotiate in good faith with Pelosi, Schumer, and company. Their only incentive to get a deal done is that if the economy implodes to the extent it could, Americans will blame Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress.

Which is why Democratic leaders haven’t been willing to budge on the $600 payments or numerous other items in the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed in the House of Representatives in May. They’re willing to let the country burn in exchange for the White House and control of the Senate.

Executive Orders

Donald Trump’s four executive orders/memorandums are a clever bit of political strategy meant to snatch away more leverage from the Democrats and force them into a tough decision.

DNC leaders rejected the White House and GOP leadership’s “piecemeal” proposals to extend the unemployment insurance and eviction moratorium and cut another round of stimulus checks while the two sides work out a deal. They want to use the impending doom to their advantage, knowing if the US enters another Great Depression, Trump is probably gone – along with several Republicans in Congress.

The President has been caught in the middle. Conservative advisors don’t appear to respect his opinions or include him in the negotiations. They also don’t seem particularly concerned with saving his presidency.

The executive orders are designed to extend the most critical benefits to Americans, while going around Congress’s back — in a way that’s likely illegal — to force Democrats into playing the “bad guys” if they stand in his way.

Will They Help?

Unfortunately, the executive orders are not what they seem.

“This is not presidential leadership. These orders are not real solutions,” said presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures do far more harm than good.”

Trump’s extension of the unemployment enhancement dropped the payment from $600 to $400.
Except, it’s actually only $300 – he wants states to cover that last 25% of the cost.

State and local governments are hemorrhaging money and looking at widespread layoffs and loss of public services; there’s no way they can afford to pick up that extra $100 per week, per jobless resident!

He also ordered the treasury department not to collect payroll taxes from those making less than $100,000 annually, until next year.

So, workers – who are lucky enough to have a job still – may see a slight increase in their take-home funds through December, but then that money will still be owed.

78% of the country was living paycheck-to-paycheck BEFORE the pandemic; how will they have enough to cover those taxes?

His order to cancel federal student loan interest and defer principal payments for the rest of the year may help somewhat.
Still, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the economic calamity we’re facing.

Even the eviction moratorium is flimsy.
It’s not a moratorium at all; it merely orders administration officials to look into the matter and asks courts to consider suspending or delaying evictions.

Campaign Strategy

Now, the ball is back in Congress’s court. Do they challenge the legality of these toothless orders and risk being seen as prioritizing partisan politics over the needs of desperate citizens?

That allows Trump to sit back and tell the American people that he tried to intervene on their behalf, but the Democrats in Congress wouldn’t have it.

Of course, Trump and the Republican leaders are playing an extremely perilous game themselves.

What happens if the Democrats don’t take the bait?

They could wait for these executive orders to fail miserably – then the economy enters the worst depression in US history, Trump loses, and Republicans probably lose the Senate.

And, really – if you think about it – they’re all taking a massive risk holding the country hostage over their partisan rivalries like this.

Suppose the US enters the kind of downward economic spiral some experts are forecasting. In that case, there might not be a system of government for them to occupy and manipulate to their own benefit. This kind of situation is how violent revolutions begin – when the leaders lose legitimacy in the eyes of the populous.

From a political betting perspective:
I’ll say Donald Trump will receive a slight bump in the polls from the executive orders, narrowing the margin between himself and Biden. For now, the appearance of making an effort to circumvent the congressional gridlock will play well with working-class and unemployed Americans.

However, the clock is ticking…

If he waits too long, this first round of executive actions will be exposed as the toothless, ineffective measures they genuinely are.

For a reputational boost that will carry into November, Trump needs to put pressure on his own party. He has to address the public, tell them he wants a series of meaningful stimulus measures, and threaten to campaign against any GOP Senator who resists.

Otherwise, he risks the Democrats calling his bluff.

Although, being the strategic dunces they are, Pelosi and Schumer will probably turn their focus to challenging the legality of the President’s orders then compromise with Republicans to pass an insufficient bill.

If so, they will have played right into Donald Trump’s hand.

Either way, if I were a betting man (I am), I’d put my money on total economic catastrophe.

Neither side is taking this situation seriously enough. Our representatives are so accustomed to surviving on political theater, they don’t know how to adjust to a moment that requires real leadership. The only question is who will benefit from the destruction in the 2020 general election.

Based on the information we have right now, I’ll predict:

  • Donald Trump defeats Joe Biden to win a second presidential term, but
  • Republicans lose control of the Senate.

Trump is seen as an “outsider” and can deflect blame by publicly supporting putting cash in people’s hands, even if his executive orders are ultimately too weak. Voters who reject both parties may still cast a ballot for him out of spite.

2020 Presidential Election
Donald Trump

Establishment Republicans, on the other hand — with each passing week, the working-class voters on which they rely will grow exponentially angrier with the “paid more not to work” nonsense. Especially as they don’t see anything resembling that scenario reflected in their lives or the world around them.

US Senate Control
Will Cormier / Author

Will Cormier is a sports and political betting writer living in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. When he’s not wandering around the streets of the Arts District aimlessly, a lifetime of pessimism and paranoia has made Will perfectly suited for handicapping politics. Cormier tries to analyze current events as objectively as possible – a strategy that often enrages loyalists on both the right and the left. When he’s not covering major upcoming elections, Will enjoys writing about basketball, football, and MMA from a betting perspective. He also loves dogs, ice cream sundaes, the movie “Stomp the Yard,” and long walks on the beach.

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