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Trump Visits Missouri To Tout GOP Tax Overhaul Bill


As the Senate begins a series of votes on tax legislation, President Trump traveled to Missouri today to promote the Republican plan. Trump told supporters outside St. Louis that slashing corporate taxes would help make American companies more competitive. Trump and other Republicans have promoted their tax plan as a boost for the middle class, but independent forecasters say most of the savings would go to the wealthiest Americans. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Trump came here to Missouri three months ago to kick off his campaign for a tax overhaul. Now, with the Senate deliberating the GOP tax bill, the president was back in the Show-Me State.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A successful vote in the Senate this week will bring us one giant step closer to delivering an incredible victory for the American people.

HORSLEY: Trump won Missouri by nearly 20 points last year, and his margin in St. Charles County outside St. Louis was even bigger. Trump told supporters at the St. Charles Convention Center the current federal tax code is a handicap for U.S. businesses. The GOP plan would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent.


TRUMP: A vote to cut taxes is a vote to put America first again.

HORSLEY: Corporate tax cuts are the heart of the GOP plan. But the president is also promising big savings for individual taxpayers, especially those on the lower rungs of the income ladder.


TRUMP: Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms in the machine shops of America - the plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipefitters - the people that like me best.

HORSLEY: But independent analysts say despite the president's promise, this is not primarily a middle-class tax cut. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, nearly two-thirds of the savings in the early years would go to people making more than $150,000 a year. And as time goes on, the tax cuts get even more lopsided. Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center says by 2027, fully 90 percent of the savings would go to the top 20 percent of U.S. earners.

HOWARD GLECKMAN: On average, in the short term, the guy in the mailroom would get a tax cut. It would be a very small tax cut - a tiny fraction of the size of the tax cut that the guy who owns the mailroom would get. In the long run, he would get almost no tax cut at all and may, depending on how much they pay him in the mailroom, actually pay more taxes than he does today.

HORSLEY: In the long run, more than half of middle-income taxpayers would pay more. That's because the individual tax cuts in the Senate bill expire after 2025, while the cuts in the corporate tax are permanent. Senate Republicans made that decision to keep the total price tag of their bill under $1.5 trillion and avoid exploding the deficit in the second decade. The White House and other Republicans are counting on a future Congress to extend the individual tax breaks. But Gleckman says that's deceptive.

GLECKMAN: You've either got to admit that the deficit is going to be bigger than the official score of the bill suggests or you have to admit that middle-income households are going to lose much of the benefit. It's really kind of disingenuous to think you could have it both ways.

HORSLEY: Democrats remain united in their opposition to the tax bill. At first, Trump hoped to peel off a few Democrats in states he carried like Missouri, where Senator Claire McCaskill is up for re-election next year. But editor Nathan Gonzales of Inside Elections says that hasn't happened.

NATHAN GONZALES: Democrats feel comfortable that they can oppose this bill because they see that the president is unpopular - at least he's unpopular nationally. And there are individual pieces of the bill that they think are just politically radioactive.

HORSLEY: Gonzales says that calculation could backfire on Democrats, though, if Republicans are able to paint them as opposing tax cuts. McCaskill's GOP rival, Josh Hawley, was in the audience for Trump's speech today - footage that could resurface next year in campaign ads for both sides. Scott Horsley, NPR News, St. Charles, Mo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.