INDIANAPOLIS — President Trump appeared to remain on-script when he unveiled a Republican proposal to cut corporate and individual tax rates in a speech at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.
Trump threatened Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, with tough opposition campaigning in next year's midterm election if he didn’t support the Republican plan, and incorrectly referred to U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th District — who is running to unseat Donnelly in next year’s senate race and was in attendance Wednesday — as “Mike Messer.” Following the speech Messer acknowledged the gaff on Twitter, but said the president still had his support on tax cuts.
“I work for Hoosiers, not President Trump or any political party,” Donnelly said in a statement released after the speech. “As it stands, the framework released today is missing many details that will be critical to determining whether working- and middle-class families truly stand to benefit.”
Donnelly rode with the president on Air Force 1 on Wednesday. Trump told Donnelly in his speech that if Donnelly did not support the tax overhaul, he would “come here and campaign against him like you won’t believe.”
This marks the second time in six days Donnelly has been called out in his own state by a member of the executive branch. In his Friday speech in Anderson, Indiana, Vice President Pence said he needed Donnelly's help on health care reform, but did not use the same language as Trump.
The overhaul to federal taxes would consolidate the existing seven tax brackets to three levels: 12, 25 and 35 percent, respectively. The top corporate tax rate would drop from the current 35 percent to 20 percent.
Additionally, Trump announced Wednesday that businesses would be able to write off equipment-related costs for the next five years under this plan. He said this would serve as an incentive to businesses who might otherwise outsource jobs.
Senior administration officials and Trump himself have said the plan is supposed to be in favor of the middle class and would close loopholes for the powerful and connected. Before he left for Indianapolis, the president told reporters in Washington, D.C. that the tax plan would not benefit him, and in his speech he said he would pay no attention to calls from powerful friends.
“They can call me all they want,” Trump said. “It’s not gonna help. I’m doing the right thing, and it’s not good for me — believe me.”
Trump laid out the basic framework of the plan during his visit to Indianapolis, which he said the House and the Senate will build upon over the next few months. He said there’d be an increased child tax credit for children under the age of 17.
He stated he will eliminate the marriage penalty and increase care for the elderly. He said elderly adults and other adult dependents will receive a $500 tax credit.
The Republican plan includes eliminating itemized deductions that benefit wealthy taxpayers, and overall cut regulation on a system built on low taxes in each of the three new tax brackets.
This includes eliminating the estate tax, commonly referred to as “death tax,” and the alternative minimum tax, a shadow tax system requiring people to facilitate their taxes in two different ways and pay the higher of the two amounts.
The corporate tax strategy will cut taxes on small American businesses to cap the tax rate at 25 percent. Trump said this will be the lowest top marginal income tax rate for small and mid-size businesses in over 80 years.
The overall corporate tax rate will be reduced to no higher than 20 percent, down from 35 percent, Trump said.
“When companies leave our country, it’s our loyal American workers who get hurt,” Trump said. “When companies stay in America, it’s our wonderful workers who reap rewards.”
Trump also appeared to reference agreements he made with corporations about outsourcing Indiana jobs. Trump told workers at U.S.-based manufacturing giant Carrier that he’d organized a deal before taking office to save 1,000 jobs at risk of being outsourced. The number was later lowered, but Carrier began laying off employees in June.
“Some made some great promises to me but those promises are only being partially kept,” Trump said of these companies.
In addition to Messer and Donnelly, among the crowd were Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th Indiana, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd Indiana, and Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana.
Messer said he believes Indiana is excited about the new plan. He said he does not believe this tax overhaul effort is a partisan plan, and that he was optimistic Donnelly would vote in favor of it.
“He’s heard loudly the pressure from President Trump and Vice President Pence,” Messer said. “But more importantly, he’s heard from working Hoosiers who want to see a tax cut.”
Trump cited Indiana as a leading state in tax overhaul, looking back at former Gov. Mike Pence’s tax cut in 2016.
“They chose to make Indiana competitive again,” Trump said.
Brayden Fleece, who owns three businesses in the Indianapolis area, said he believes Trump is playing right out of Indiana's economic playbook.
“We’re a surplus, we weren’t a deficit always, and we did that by incentivizing people to come here and start businesses and it works,” Fleece said. “The model works."
Christian Rust, chief ecosystems officer of Aggressively Organic, a hydroponic growth chamber company in Indiana, said the state’s model was attractive to his company coming from Delaware.
“He talked about using Indiana as a blueprint in going forward,” Rust said. “So I think that’ll definitely be something that can spur economic growth and put American back on the globe for a place to do business.”
Outside the fairgrounds, a small number of protesters stood with signs proclaiming opposition to the president and his agenda. Some of the protesters, including Bloomington resident Tom Tlusty, held the ACLU-made signs proclaiming that “dissent is patriotic.”
Tlusty said he hadn’t been happy with any legislation Republicans had proposed so far, and that while he hadn’t read the specifics of the the tax plan, the situation was no different. He said he felt wealthy people did not pay their fair share of taxes or contribute sufficiently to infrastructure.
He also criticized Pence’s record on government finances. White House officials and Trump have cited Pence’s tax cutting record as a model to follow nationally.
“He made I-69 a nightmare,” Tlusty said of the decision to privatize construction of a portion of the interstate road under then-Gov. Pence.
Tlusty said over the course of the day, passing drivers had shown support by honking at him and his fellow protesters.
At one point, a Trump supporter exiting the fairgrounds drove past in a red convertible waving a matching Make America Great Again hat.
Kim Saylor of Indianapolis said she arrived at the fairgrounds to protest at approximately 1:15 p.m., but Trump did not arrive until well after 3 p.m.
Saylor said the president was intentionally divisive and that he had not done much to prove that he was not a corporate shill. She was not pleased with the tax proposal.
“If I was rich, I’d love it,” Saylor said. “But I’m not and neither are 95 percent of Americans.”
Saylor served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2016 in support of candidate Bernie Sanders, but said she voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election because she believes in party unity.
Trump ended his speech with a call to action on both sides of the aisle. He said this plan cannot go through without the American people making their voices heard.
Trump said the invited audience should demand tax reform to their politicians and called the new tax plan a middle class miracle.
“My fellow Americans, this is the right tax cut, and this is the right time,” Trump said.
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