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Trump promotes tax cut plan in St. Charles speech

U.S. President Donald J. Trump delivers his remarks to a crowd of invited guests in St. Charles, Missouri on November 29, 2017.
Kae Petrin I St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. President Donald J. Trump delivers his remarks to a crowd of invited guests in St. Charles, Missouri on November 29, 2017.

President Donald Trump made grand promises Wednesday that a pending federal tax overhaul will bring jobs back to "Main Street America'' by revamping a "dysfunctional'' tax system and providing tax cuts for working families.

He told a packed audience at the St. Charles Convention Center that only Democrats like Missouri's U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill stood in the way of a more prosperous future.  The president portrayed McCaskill, a former prosecutor, as a tax-cut opponent who is "weak on crime,  weak on the border, weak on the military."

Trump promised to return to Missouri next year to help her best-known GOP challenger, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who the president repeatedly praised throughout his 46-minute speech. Hawley later posted on Twitter his appreciation for Trump's support.

McCaskill countered later by asserting that the president was weak on tax cuts that help average working families.

Besides mixing policy with politics, Trump's wide-ranging remarks also were laced with references to history, as well as jabs at allied countries who he said were taking advantage of the United States. “Our country was not treated properly for a long time,” he said.

In his quest for better treatment, Trump said he was pressing for better trade deals and for other countries — who he did not specify by name — to shoulder more of the costs of their national defense that he said now are primarily borne by the U.S.

But he began and ended his address by focusing on tax cuts. The U.S. House already has passed a bill, with the Senate expected to vote on a different version within days.

“The beating heart of our plan is a tax cut for working families,” he said, to much applause. “We’re going to make sure that you keep more of your hard-earned money.”

Trump contended that the massive tax-cut proposals were the first federal trims since fellow Republican Ronald Reagan's tax overhaul in 1986. Trump didn't mention the major tax cut package approved in 2001 under another Republican, George W. Bush.

Focus on 'Main Street' and middle class

Trump greets guests before delivering his remarks in St. Charles.
Credit Bill Greenblatt I UPI
Trump greets guests before delivering his remarks in St. Charles.

Trump contended that he and other wealthy Americans won't benefit from the tax-cut package, although various nonpartisan reviews have contended otherwise.  The president did defend the elimination of the federal estate tax, which now kicks in on inheritances above $11 million for a married couple. He said it was understandable that wealthy families wanted to leave their fortunes to their children without the offspring having to pay huge taxes.

Trump highlighted what he said would be tax breaks for middle-class individuals and married couples, and he promised that companies would receive benefits that would prompt them to create more jobs.

“These massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel to the American economy,” he predicted.

Trump called the historic city of St. Charles the “perfect place” to deliver his tax-cut message, with its historical connection to the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, by “leading our nation into a future of limitless potential.”

St. Charles County has grown dramatically over the last few years, and has long been the fastest growing part of the St. Louis region and Missouri. The president highlighted several local entrepreneurs who he said exemplified the future.

"If we want America to thrive in the 21st century, we must stop running from the competition," Trump said. "We must start winning and winning and winning again."

Reaction to the president

Fans of the president sold t-shirts during his visit to St. Charles.
Credit Jo Mannies I St. Louis Public Radio
Fans of the president sold t-shirts during his visit to St. Charles.

The invitation-only crowd included many Republican officials, party activists and supporters. Carol Pitzer, a graduate student from St. Charles County, called herself a “cultural warrior.”

“He hit everything bull’s-eye,” she said.  Pitzer’s husband lost his job when it went overseas, she said. And she sees Trump’s plans as the best way to bring back similar jobs.

Brittany Tolley is an entrepreneur and business coach with Purple Monkey Garage. “Entrepreneurship is the fuel for freedom,” said Tolley. “Entrepreneurship has been stifled in the past years because of huge tax. Huge taxes, period. Just by allowing people to have tax breaks, it gives people more freedom to start their own business.”

Opponents, including McCaskill, say the GOP proposals now primarily benefit the rich. "I’d jump at the chance to support a plan to deliver relief to Missouri’s working families, simplify the tax code, close loopholes exploited by the rich, and lower the corporate tax rate," the senator said in a statement.

"The Republican-drafted tax plan would further complicate the tax code, keep open those loopholes, deepen the national debt, and give the vast majority of benefits to millionaires and billionaires, while working families get hurt..."

Trump said a tax-cut measure would cap his first-year success. “I will tell you this in a non-braggadocious way: There has never been a 10-month president that has accomplished what we have.”

Trump began and ended his speech with a reference to a social-issue that many in his base embrace. “With Trump as your president," he said, "We are going to be celebrating 'Merry Christmas' again.”

Signs declaring "Merry Christmas'' flanked the stage, which also included trees decorated with eagles. He left amid the strains of the classic rock song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones.

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies


Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.