GENEVA — A quiet discourse on whether the GOP tax cuts are benefiting common Americans was not found Tuesday afternoon at Congressman Tom Reed’s district office in Geneva.
The Job Creators Network bus tour rolled into Geneva to present Reed, R-23 of Corning, with the Defender of Small Business Award. He is one of 25 Republicans getting the award from the network, which was founded by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus.
However, it was hardly a quiet presentation.
Reed allowed members of the public to attend the function, which, because of weather conditions, was moved into his small office on Exchange Street. A large number of protesters moved in and made it nearly impossible for either Reed or Tim Jones, a representative of the Job Creators Network, to speak.
Jones said the tax cuts are working — and for everyone, not just those in the top 1 percent. He said small businesses make up a large majority of the nation’s economy, and they’re performing better because of the cuts.
“Job Creators fought harder than anyone in Washington to push for the tax cuts, and more importantly, to make sure that small business got the benefits,” Jones said amid shouts from the audience.
He said the bill was modified to ensure that small businesses benefited, too, not just corporations. The corporate tax rate was reduced from 35 to 21 percent. He added that national unemployment is down to 3.9 percent, people “stuck in part-time jobs are finding full-time jobs” and that the gross domestic product is at 4.1 percent, one of the largest in years.
“Millions of Americans have gotten pay raises. Millions of Americans have gotten bonuses,” Jones said, adding that consumers with more money to spend is another way small businesses benefit.
Opponents, however, including many in the crowd, say those benefits have largely been enjoyed by the nation’s corporations and richest people.
Jones said to jeers that Reed “knew he’d be attacked for casting that vote, and that it was going to be a major issue in the campaign. Ladies and gentleman: that’s a real leader.”
Reed said he’s proud to have supported the legislation.
“I do believe in the tax cut bill,” he said, speaking over protesters, adding that he had no problem with them coming in.
Among those front and center of the protest was Geneva resident Laura Salamendra, who attempted to interrupt both Jones and Reed. She said after the event that speaking loudly is the only way.
“Today, Tom Reed attempted to hold a press conference to tell the people of Geneva that these tax breaks will eventually trickle down to their pockets,” she said. “Instead, the people of Geneva told their congressman that they cannot and will not wait for crumbs. Today, we disrupted business as usual, because business as usual leaves half our city hungry, homeless and uninsured.”
Reed has endured similar sessions at his town halls around the district.
“I understand that this is America, that this is democracy,” he told the group, again reiterating after the presentation that the average American household will experience a $1,600 tax cut — through payroll and when they file their income taxes next year.
The Americans for Tax Fairness disputes the tax benefit claims, issuing a press release to the Finger Lakes Times that runs counter to the Job Creators Network and Reed.
It said “83 percent of the tax cuts in the new law will go to the wealthiest 1 percent once it’s fully implemented, according to the Tax Policy Center. Their share is so high because so much of the tax cuts benefit corporations, and most stock is owned by the wealthy.”
The organization said the tax cuts cost $1.9 trillion, which is being added to the national debt, according to the Congressional Budget.
“To address the debt and pay for these tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy and big corporations, Trump and House Republican leaders propose to cut between $1.3 and $2 trillion from Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act,” the release said. “These cuts will cause millions to lose coverage and increase the cost of health insurance for small business owners, workers and customers.”
It argued that job growth since enactment of the tax cuts “is in line with job growth prior to Trump’s election. Since passage of the tax law, job creation has averaged 215,000 a month for the last seven months, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Job creation was even stronger during President Obama’s final three years in office, averaging 224,000 per month.”
It said only about 4 percent of the national workforce of 155 million workers has gotten raises and that most corporations are using the tax savings to buy back their stock.
Reed said there is no doubt the tax cuts are creating jobs and fueling the strong GDP numbers. Yes, the tax cuts are adding to the deficit, he said, but with additional job growth and spending cuts, that can be mitigated.
As to whether that comes at the expense of social programs, Reed said most folks would rather have a good job with benefits than be on government assistance.
“They’re looking for an opportunity to get out of the government dependence mode,” he said.
Among those standing for Reed and the tax cuts was Ralph Fryer, a retired Goulds Pumps worker.
“[Opponents] have beaten and humiliated [Reed] for so long,” said Fryer while standing with friend and longtime Geneva businessman Ralph Fratto. “They will see that this is the best regime (President Trump and the Republicans) that has been around for years.”