Trump touts tax cuts for middle class in Pennsylvania tax reform speech
President Donald Trump attempted to fire up middle-class Americans about the prospects of a retooled tax code during the latest stop in his tax reform tour Wednesday evening.
And despite mounting criticism from independent analysts and Democrats who say the latest GOP-led tax reform push appears to be geared toward the country's wealthiest rather than its average citizens, Trump reiterated during his remarks in Pennsylvania that his goal is to make life easier for the middle class.
"Our country and our economy cannot take off like they should unless we transform America's outdated, complex and extremely burdensome tax code," Trump said. "It's a middle-class bill. That's what we're thinking of. That's what I want."
President Trump speaks about tax reform in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Trump's return to Pennsylvania – a tightly contested state he picked up during the 2016 presidential election – came with a new promise that a lower tax rate, along with a one-time tax on earnings companies have sheltered overseas that is intended to encourage repatriation, would bring back "probably very close to 100 percent" of the trillions of dollars currently stashed outside of American tax collectors' reach.
The reforms, according to Trump, would also "likely give the typical American household a $4,000 pay raise."
"Could be a lot more than that, too," he said.
But a few caveats appear to come with that $4,000 promise – including reports that have surfaced suggesting the estimate is the sum of savings over an eight-year window, meaning the benefit would only be about $500 each year.
A senior White House official during a conference call Tuesday did not explain where the $4,000 would come from. Independent analyses have suggested some middle-class Americans could end up paying more under Trump's plan, so it's tough to square the White House's math without more specific details on hand.
Trump's speech Wednesday also focused heavily on the trucking industry, as the president spoke in front of a truck bearing the slogan "win again" that was set up as a backdrop to his podium in the Harrisburg International Airport area.
Trump called the trucking industry the "lifeblood of our economy" and promised it would be a primary beneficiary of the GOP's proposed tax blueprint, which, among other things, would lower corporate tax rates, retool rates on partnerships and limited liability companies and reduce the number of individual tax brackets recognized by the IRS.
A senior White House official on Tuesday indicated roughly 1,000 people were expected to be in attendance, most notably a large group of those who work in trucking and freight – an important but under-the-radar industry in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania held the third-most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers of any state last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's behind only Texas and California, whose overall populations are considerably larger.
"You're going to make more money. You're going to do better than ever before," Trump promised America's truckers should the GOP-led tax reform blueprint make its way through Capitol Hill.
The plan, though, has been panned for providing tax breaks for the wealthy. The Tax Policy Center in a preliminary analysis estimated taxpayers in the 80th to 95th income percentiles would actually experience a tax increase, on average, under the GOP framework.
"Taxpayers in the top 1 percent (incomes above $730,000), would receive about 50 percent of the total tax benefit; their after-tax income would increase an average of 8.5 percent," the analysis said. "Between 2018 and 2027, the average tax cut as a share of after-tax income would fall for all income groups other than the top 1 percent."
Trump refuted those claims, however, recalling a conversation he had with Patriots owner Robert Kraft a few months ago. Trump said Kraft told him: "Give it to the middle class. Don't give it to us. Give it to the middle class."
"And that is what we're trying so hard to do," Trump said of his proposed tax cuts.
Still, the details of the plan have yet to be ironed out, and Trump on Wednesday appeared to change certain aspects of his pitch, creating more uncertainty for analysts. Trump repeatedly said there were currently eight income tax brackets and that the new blueprint would reduce that number to four – appearing to count those whose annual income falls below the standard deduction as their own bracket.
Less than a month ago, during a tax speech in Indianapolis, he promised individuals would be "subject to just three tax rates" rather than the current seven.
The House recently passed a budget proposal crafted to lay the groundwork for reform through reconciliation, which could theoretically bypass a potential filibuster in the Senate. Lawmakers in the upper chamber on Capitol Hill are expected to soon push their own budget plan through.
Trump has flirted with the idea of bringing Democrats on board for tax reform discussions, though he on Wednesday labeled them "obstructionists" who want to "very, very substantially" raise Americans' taxes.
Regardless of party affiliation, however, and in the aftermath of a health care overhaul defeat earlier this year, Trump had one message for lawmakers tuning in to his remarks.
"All I can say is, you'd better get it passed," he said.