President Donald Trump on Wednesday kicked off his push for tax reform, pitching his plans to overhaul the tax code as a way to help working-class Americans and keep the U.S. competitive against foreign countries.
"This is the place where the Main Street of America got its start and this is where America's Main Street will begin its big, beautiful come back," Trump said in Springfield, Mo. "We're here today to launch our plans to bring back Main Street by reducing the crumbling burden on our companies and on our workers."
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Before Trump discussed his "pro-worker, pro-American" tax reform plan, he sent prayers to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which has devastated southeast Texas.
"Our first responders have been doing heroic work to shepherd people out of harms way and their courage and devotion have saved countless lives. They represent the very best of America," he said. "Together, we will endure and overcome. To those affected by the storm, we are praying for you and we are here with you every single step of the way."
Trump then called the current U.S. tax code "self-destructive" and touted a Commerce Department report that projects three percent annual economic growth. He framed his tax reform push as a way to create more jobs.
"The foundation of our job creation agenda is to fundamentally reform our tax code for the first time in more than 30 years," the president said.
Trump listed four principles for tax reform. The first is to make the system fair, simple, and easy to understand, and to remove the loopholes that benefit the wealthy and special interests.
"We need a tax code that is simple, fair, and easy to understand. That means getting rid of loopholes and complexity that primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans and special interests," Trump said, adding that he wants to "allow the vast majority of our citizens to file their taxes on a single, simple page without having to hire an accountant."
The other three principles are: a competitive tax code to encourage job creation and wage growth, tax relief for the middle class, and international corporate tax reform to bring money back to the U.S.
Trump also put Congress on notice, saying that he does not want to be "disappointed" in the legislature for failing to pass tax reform.
He specifically called out Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is from Missouri and up for reelection in 2018.
"We must lower our taxes," Trump said. "Your senator, Claire McCaskill, she must do this for you, and if she doesn't do it for you, you have to vote her out of office."
"I'm calling on all members of Congress—Democrat, Republican, and Independent—to support pro-American tax reform," he added.
Trump called for lower taxes for middle-income Americans using what his administration is calling the "American model."
"My administration is embracing a new economic model. It's called very simply: The American Model," Trump said. "Under this system, we will encourage companies to hire and grow in America, to raise wages for American workers, and to help rebuild our American cities and communities. That is how we will all succeed and grow together, as one team, with one shared sense of purpose, and one glorious American destiny."
Trump did not just discuss tax reform as a domestic issue; he framed it as a necessary move to stay competitive against foreign countries, referencing former President Ronald Reagan in the process.
"In 1986, Ronald Reagan led the world by cutting our corporate tax rate to 34 percent. That was below the average rate for developed countries at the time," Trump said. "Everyone thought that was a monumental thing that happened. But then, under this pro-America system, our economy boomed; it just went beautifully, right through the roof."
"The middle class thrived, and median family income increased. Other countries saw the success," he added.
Trump argued that other countries responded by lowering their own taxes to remain competitive.
"They acted very swiftly by cutting taxes lower and lower and lower and reforming their tax systems to be far more competitive than ours," Trump said. "Over the past 30 years, the average business tax rate among developed nations fell from 45 percent to less than 24 percent, and some countries have an unbelievably low tax, including, by the way, China, and some others that are highly competitive and really doing very well against us."
"They are taking us, frankly, to the cleaners."