Congress is trying to hammer out another COVID-19 stimulus and relief package before the end of the week.
There are several sticking points between the Democrats who control the U.S. House of Representatives and the Republicans who dominate the U.S. Senate.
Plus there is President Donald Trump pushing for a suspension or reduction in the payroll tax, which funds Social Security and Medicare.
If there's one thing most congressional Republicans and Democrats agree on, it's that the president is off-base on this one.
This isn't the first time President Trump has called for a reduction in the payroll tax. We opposed it before and we oppose any such reduction now.
Right now employees and employers each pay a 6.2% tax on wages for Social Security and 1.45 % to fund Medicare. Suspending the tax would put nearly 8% more cash in employee and employer pockets. Cutting it to some degree would still mean more in take-home pay. In both cases, though, any benefit to Americans would be over time, not immediately as, say, a second stimulus check.
Another thing. The increase in retirees drawing funds out as opposed to those in the workforce paying in is already a problem for Social Security and Medicare. The high unemployment because of the COVID-19 pandemic is only making the situation worse.
A suspension or cut to withholding would do serious future damage to social safety nets that many elderly Americans depend on. Social Security and Medicare are already facing insolvency down the road. The federal government should be trying to shore those programs up, not inflicting further damage for the sake of limited immediate benefits.
The president should back off on payroll taxes. It certainly should not be a deal-breaker on anything Congress comes up with.