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On Taxes, Trump Pivots from ‘Great Again’ to ‘Pretty Much’ No. 1

President gives a soft sell of his plan’s proposed 20 percent corporate rate

President Trump on Friday pitched his tax plan to a manufacturers’ group in Washington. He did the same (above) in Springfield, Mo., last month. (White House photo via Flickr)
President Trump on Friday pitched his tax plan to a manufacturers’ group in Washington. He did the same (above) in Springfield, Mo., last month. (White House photo via Flickr)

Make America “pretty much” great again was not quite Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign theme, but that’s how the president sold a key part of his tax plan on Friday.

A tax overhaul “framework” the White House and congressional Republicans rolled out this week proposes a slew of individual and corporate tax rate cuts and code changes. Trump administration officials are busily selling the plan as a winner for middle-class families and American companies, arguing it will leave more cash in working folks’ wallets and incentive companies big and small to create new jobs.

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But even before Trump was his party’s presidential nominee, he has criticized America’s 35 percent corporate tax rate as too high. Candidate Trump often said it long has been an anchor on the U.S. economy and essentially encouraged large firms to close U.S. factories, fire American workers, and move their operations — and taxable profits — to other countries.

President Trump has continued those warnings, as he did Friday as he took his tax overhaul sales pitch across town to a speech at a swanky Washington hotel to address the National Association of Manufacturers. And, as expected, the White House-GOP plan’s proposal to lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent was a major part of the president’s pitch — but with a twist.

Trump is known for his bravado and bold promises — both helped him defeat nearly 20 GOP primary foes and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But he tempered that a bit on Friday.

The president declared it is “time to go from dead last to pretty much the front of the pack — pretty much.”

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Trump has long advocated a 15 percent corporate rate, and once signaled it was non-negotiable. Friday’s speech brought a bit of a pivot, as the former brash “Make America Great Again” candidate strike the tone of a “pretty much” deal-minded president eager to sign his first legislative victory into law.

“We won’t be the lowest, but we’ll be getting pretty close,” Trump said of the proposed 20 percent corporate rate. Though it was not his first choice, the president said that rate would be “below our average comp by far.”

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The nonpartisan Tax Foundation puts the U.S. corporate rate as tied with eight other countries with the third-highest in the world, trailing only the United Arab Emirates (55 percent) and Puerto Rico (39 percent). When the foundation added in the average state corporate tax rate, America moved into sole possession of third place with an adjusted rate of 38.9 percent. 

The Tax Foundation puts the average worldwide corporate tax rate at 22.5 percent.

After the “pretty much” pivot, the big promise-making president returned, with Trump promising the NAM audience that should the White House-GOP tax overhaul include a 20 percent corporate rate and become law, jobs will “start pouring into our country.”

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons also was bullish about the White House-GOP plan, saying: “Manufacturers in America have never been as enthusiastic [or] as optimistic about their future as they are this year and that is because of the huge opportunity we have to get tax reform done.” 

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