President Donald Trump on Wednesday kicked off his campaign to cut and reform taxes by naming names in Missouri, calling out the state’s Democratic senator.
Speaking at a Springfield manufacturing company, Trump took the fight directly to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year.
“She must do this for you,” Trump said to loud applause. “And if she doesn’t do it for you, you have to vote her out of office. She’s got to make that commitment.”
The rhetoric likely pleased Trump supporters who had expressed consternation in recent weeks that the president was focusing so much on sniping at fellow Republicans while largely leaving Democrats alone.
But Trump had veiled warnings for Republicans, too.
“I don’t want to be disappointed by Congress. Do you understand me?” he said, pointing to Republican representatives in the audience.
He added, “I think Congress is going to make a comeback. I hope so. I tell you what, the country is counting on it.”
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told LifeZette that Trump should not allow Democrats from conservative-leaning states to talk favorably about tax reform in the abstract while finding reasons to vote against the specific bill that eventually emerges from Congress.
“It’s very wise,” he said, referring to the president calling out McCaskill. “What the red-state Democrats are going to do is talk a good game.”
Trump did not wade deeply in the details of tax reform as he spoke to the employees at Loren Cook Co. Instead, he outlined a broad vision for alleviating the “crushing tax burden” on companies and workers. He connected tax reform to economic growth, jobs and wages.
“Our self-destructive tax code costs Americans millions and million of jobs, trillions of dollars and billions of hours spent on compliance and paperwork,” he said. “And you have seen what’s happening with regulations. They’re going fast.”
Invoking Iconic Route 66
Trump painted a picture of a bygone era using the iconic Route 66, which runs through the Show Me State as a metaphor.
“For many decades, Route 66 captured the American spirit. And communities along this historic route were a vivid symbol of America’s booming industry,” he said. “Truck drivers hauled made-in-America goods across this vital artery of commerce. Families passed through bustling towns on their way to explore the great American West. And high-quality manufacturing jobs lifted up communities, gave Americans a paycheck that could support a family.”
“But in recent years, millions have watched that prosperity slip away in the rear-view mirror. It wasn’t pleasant to watch, especially for me.”
Ever-rising tax rates and increasing complexity contributed to a decline, he said.
“But in recent years, millions have watched that prosperity slip away in the rear-view mirror,” he said. “It wasn’t pleasant to watch, especially for me.”
As a model, Trump pointed to the last time a president and Congress came together for comprehensive tax reform: 1986. He laid out four principles that he intends to pursue:
- The tax code should be simple, fair, and easy to understand.
- Tax rates should be competitive with other countries and designed to spark more jobs and higher wages.
- The middle class should enjoy tax relief.
- Reform should encourage companies to bring back trillions of dollars of profits earned overseas that are in offshore bank accounts to avoid high U.S. taxes.
Trump noted that the basic 1040 form currently has 100 pages of instructions, up from just two in 1935.
“The tax code is so complicated that more than 90 percent of Americans need professional help to do their own taxes,” he said. “This enormous complexity is very unfair. It disadvantages ordinary Americans who don’t have an army of accountants, while benefiting deep-pocketed special interests.”
Reagan Reform a Model
Trump said America under former President Ronald Reagan slashed the top corporate tax rate to 34 percent, which at the time was below the international average. He said other countries responded by reforming their own tax system, resulting in a decline in the average corporate tax rate from 45 percent to 24 percent.
That compares to a top U.S. rate that now stands at 35 percent — and greater than 40 percent in many places where state and local taxes are counted. Trump called for reducing the U.S. rate to 15 percent.
“The strategy of our economic rivals has worked,” he said. “They made their taxes lower, and far lower in many cases, than ours, and jobs left our country.”
Trump also called for Congress to include a provision to make it easier for middle-class families to pay for child care, a favorite project of his daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Trump’s speech drew praise from Alfredo Ortiz, president of the Job Creators Network.
“The president is determined to energize the American economy, especially with the necessary tax cuts for job creators — small businesses all across the country who create 70 percent of all new jobs,” he said in a statement.
But a liberal interest group, Americans for Tax Fairness. depicted Trump’s proposal as a giveaway to the wealthy.
“Make no mistake, what Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are proposing is not tax reform,” the group’s executive director, Frank Clemente, said in a statement. “They simply want massive tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations, at the expense of everyone else.”
Norquist, the anti-tax activist, said Trump should continue building the case for a tax overhaul. He urged lawmakers not to choose between reducing taxes and simplifying the code. They should do both, he said.
He predicted it will be “infinitely easier” than the failed effort to repeal Obamacare because there are no side issues, like Planned Parenthood funding, that divide Republicans.
“This bill should unite all of the Rs,” said Norquist. “This is one-dimensional. The other was three-dimensional chess.”