Casey B. Mulligan and Stephen Moore’s prescription for the next round of coronavirus relief (“A True Economic Stimulus Plan,” op-ed, July 3) may be a salve for employers and high earners, but won’t cure the financial woes that ail unemployed, lower-income and working-class Americans. Fiscal conservatives Moore and Mulligan want Congress to jettison extended unemployment benefits for workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic, and instead eliminate the payroll taxes that fund Social Security. (President Trump has insisted on the same.)
Contrary to the authors’ claim, a payroll tax cut wouldn’t “disproportionately benefit” lower-income workers. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, nearly half of the benefit from a payroll-tax cut would go to the richest 20% of taxpayers, and would be a boon to big corporations that are under no obligation to rehire laid-off workers. It’s telling that the authors don’t even mention Social Security, though the program relies on payroll-tax contributions. Workers earn these benefits, but tampering with the program’s funding stream places future benefits at risk. Americans who cannot yet return to work, or don’t deem it safe to do so, should not be punished by having their unemployment benefits cut off during a pandemic. But they will need their Social Security benefits when they retire, which is why payroll-tax cuts are an ill-advised remedy for the financial pain of Covid-19.
President & CEO
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare