At the end of July, millions of Americans — and about 10.4 percent of eligible workers in El Paso County — found themselves staring down hunger, loss of utilities, evictions and homelessness when federal assistance for the unemployed ran out.
And all the other programs to aid small businesses and keep people working have virtually dried up as well. The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic threatens to get worse — as thousands of small businesses are closing or are at the end of their resources.
And Congress doesn’t care.
Republicans seem to think people without jobs are just lazy and want a government handout. Democrats can’t seem to negotiate different benefits. Unable to come to a bipartisan agreement, they left for summer vacation as if none of their constituents were on the verge of losing everything they’ve built during their entire working lives.
And as usual, our own Congressman Doug Lamborn has been silent about coronavirus aid — and pretty much everything else that’s occurred this year. Seriously, has anyone seen Doug? Heard from him? Should we file a missing persons report?
And to add injury to insult, our president has decided that what unemployed people need is … a break from payroll taxes that help fund Social Security and Medicare. Businesses and employees pay both taxes, equaling around 12.4 percent.
The key here? You have to be employed to get the benefit of a deferred payroll tax.
The other thing to note: It’s a deferment, not necessarily a permanent holiday. So come January, people who didn’t pay those taxes from August to December could see a big chunk come out of their paychecks.
There’s little economic incentive to the president’s plan, combined with a lot of Constitutional uncertainty. Congress holds the purse strings, not the president. It’s a power grab to control revenue, and it shouldn’t go unchallenged.
And what about the millions of Boomers who rely on Medicare and Social Security? Can either of those programs survive without five months of revenue? Doesn’t this plan, ill informed and misguided as it is, leave our oldest residents more vulnerable?
We know the president doesn’t care. He’s already said ending Social Security is one of his goals if he’s re-elected. He’s also said that older Americans don’t mind dying to save the Dow. He’s shown little concern and less knowledge about the lives of his constituents under this unprecedented, ongoing pandemic.
So it’s time for Congress to act, even as the president usurps more of its authority. Our elected officials need to return from their recess, negotiate, compromise and create a plan that keeps us all on even economic footing. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our nation’s economy. Main Street, not Wall Street, employs the majority of the workforce. And it’s Main Street, not Wall Street, that needs assistance now.
Find a way to help businesses stay open, to aid workers without jobs and to help people who are struggling to feed, clothe and shelter their families.
It’s the job of our representatives; it’s why they get paid, why they enjoy long vacations, why they receive free health care and ongoing pensions.
So find Doug Lamborn and his colleagues and tell them to lead — after all, they still have jobs.
Editorial board: Regan Foster, Bryan Grossman, Mary Jo Meade, Helen Robinson, Amy Gillentine Sweet