Donna and her husband, Roger, moved to The Villages north of Orlando when they retired. He’s a military man. She ran a small business. They are both really worried about the pandemic.
They don’t blame President Donald Trump for the coronavirus. But they do blame him for his failure to respond. Donna and Roger are doing their part, wearing masks and taking every precaution they can. And they know other people have things a lot worse. We see it across Florida and the country, people have gotten sick and died, tens of millions more who had to shut down their small business or lost their job as the economy crashed. And a lot of people fear getting evicted or affording food for their families.
But they’re worried. As Donna says, they feel trapped. And they regret that they can’t do what grandparents look forward to the most: Spend time with their two grandchildren.
Jill and I feel the same way about not seeing our grandchildren as much as we want to. Video calls are great, but they’re just not the same, especially after six months of being away from the ones you love the most at the time in your life you need them the most.
Every moment counts in our lives, but they especially matter if Americans are counting on you to lead this nation during a time of crisis.
Last week, instead of rising to the moment, President Trump just added more economic strain and stress to Donna, Roger and seniors and communities across Florida. Instead of bringing Congress together to provide economic relief for families affected by the coronavirus, like a president should do, he went to his golf club in New Jersey and issued several executive actions that do more harm than good.
It was almost as if he gave his team the assignment of designing proposals that would hurt the people of Florida.
One of his orders would immediately shut down a large portion of the funding Social Security relies on to provide retirement security to tens of millions of Americans — including nearly 4 million Florida seniors. Not only that, Trump made clear that this is just the opening salvo in a new, reckless war against Social Security. He stood at his golf course podium and promised to defund Social Security if he is re-elected.
That’s no campaign hyperbole. Here’s the deal. He wants to permanently cut the funding source for Social Security. Americans pay these payroll taxes knowing that their Social Security will be there for them when they retire. That is a sacred trust. That is why when President Barack Obama and I worked with Congress to temporarily cut payroll taxes during the last downturn, we made sure every dime owed Social Security was 100 percent protected. We accounted for every dollar.
Trump actually said he wants to “terminate” those taxes. That is his word, not mine. Yet, without that funding, we would be ending Social Security as we know it. Gutting the funding of Social Security by trillions of dollars would result in unimaginable Social Security cuts to tens of millions of Americans. In the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis brought on by his own negligence, Trump’s new plan is to undermine the retirement benefits you’ve earned through decades of hard work.
As if that’s not enough of a hit, Trump signed another order that takes billions of dollars of federal natural disaster funding away so it won’t be available to states like Florida, making you and your communities more vulnerable just as the peak of hurricane season hits. This was after Trump’s top FEMA official told states they can’t use FEMA funds to clean schools in time for reopening or for protective equipment for teachers. Give me a break.
Trump’s order also forces Florida to choose between denying enhanced unemployment benefits to more than half a million Floridians or slashing funds for public schools, health workers and first responders. So now you’re facing a pandemic, economic depression, retirement insecurity, school closings and hurricane season with much less help.
This is no art of the deal. These orders aren’t solutions, and I think that they may very well be illegal. Most of all, this is not presidential leadership. It’s a deflection of responsibility — a failure of his duty to care — which will never happen if I become president. I will never defund Social Security. To the contrary, I will strengthen it.
I will never force states to make such cruel choices about the health and safety of their residents.
And I will always be there for seniors like Donna and Roger who are just trying to do what’s right.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.