Benjamin Franklin is usually credited for observing that nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes. As it happens, he didn’t originate the aphorism, and there is at least one certainty missing from the list — that the Democrats will never allow an election to pass without trying to scare elderly voters by fabricating some fell GOP conspiracy to kill Social Security. Consequently, it was inevitable that Joe Biden would accuse President Trump of a dark plot to destroy the program. Never mind that neither Trump nor his advisers have proposed any such plan, the Biden presidential campaign released an ad last Thursday that includes the following falsehood:
The chief actuary of the Social Security Administration just released an analysis of Trump’s planned cuts to Social Security. Under Trump’s plan, Social Security would become permanently depleted by the middle of calendar year 2023. If Trump gets his way, Social Security benefits will run out in just three years from now. Don’t let it happen. Joe Biden will protect Social Security.
This lie was so outrageous that it was awarded four Pinocchios by the Washington Post. The impetus for the claim was a letter written to Chief Actuary Stephen Goss by several senators asking him to evaluate “hypothetical legislation” whereby the payroll taxes that provide funding for Social Security would be eliminated. Goss must respond to such questions, but he included this in his answer: “I am not aware that anyone has proposed the hypothetical legislation you describe.” It’s also unlikely that he knew that the letter was sent at the behest of the Democratic presidential nominee, who has called for Social Security cuts:
When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security.… I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.… I tried with Sen. Grassley back in the ’80s to freeze all government spending, including Social Security.
Those are the words of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden arguing on the floor of the Senate for a balanced budget. Sen. Bernie Sanders reminded him of this floor speech in a Democratic debate earlier this year, and Biden was less than candid in his response. Yahoo News reported the exchange last March in an article titled, “Joe Biden falsely claims he never called for Social Security cuts.” Sanders asked him directly if he had called for cuts in Social Security, and Biden denied the charge: “No. I did not talk about the need to cut any of those programs.” Biden was lying. Yet he now expects seniors to believe he will diligently protect the program.
But Biden and his Democratic allies in the Senate have something more important to worry about than mere facts. The former vice president is losing steam in Florida — a state he must win in November. According to the RealClearPolitics average, his purported lead in the Sunshine State has plummeted from 8.4 percent on July 25 to 1.8 percent as of Sunday evening. The most powerful voter bloc in Florida is its seniors, so Biden needs some pretext to trundle out tried-and-true Democrat talking points about Republicans and their dastardly designs on Social Security. Biden needs to convince them that Trump wants to cut off their checks.
So, Biden and his Senate accomplices are attempting to exploit President Trump’s executive order suspending the payment of payroll taxes until the end of the year. Because the executive order includes a “holiday” on collection of the 6.2 percent Social Security tax, Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) requested Chief Actuary Goss to analyze the impact of a hopelessly implausible hypothetical in which the payroll taxes that fund Social Security would be eliminated with no alternative source of revenue from the General Treasury to the OASI Trust Fund reserve.
Goss, whose letter made it clear that he regards such a contingency extremely unlikely, nonetheless estimated that the hypothetical elimination of the payroll tax in the absence of a replacement funding stream would permanently deplete the OASI Trust Fund reserves by the middle of calendar year 2023. Thus, a hopelessly disingenuous and utterly despicable campaign ad was born. This is worse than the infamous ad showing former House Speaker Paul Ryan tossing Granny off the cliff. At least that ad was about debatable Medicare changes. Trump’s payroll tax holiday makes no attempt to change Social Security or cut its funding.
After last month’s Democratic National Convention a number of pundits attempted to argue that Vice President Biden was better suited for the presidency pursuant to his basic decency. It’s difficult to square that argument with his campaign’s incredibly cynical “Depleted” ad. It is a compendium of lies meant to further terrify seniors who already live in fear due to their genuine vulnerability to COVID-19. If Biden is sentient enough to have approved this ad, there are many adjectives that would accurately describe him. “Decent” isn’t one of them.