PHILADELPHIA– On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence made a stop to speak at an event sponsored by America First Policies, a non-profit organization to promote President Trump’s agenda. The main topic was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and its positive effects on the economy, but it was also an opportunity for the Vice President to stump for Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate, Congressman Lou Barletta of PA.
The event began with a panel discussion on taxes which featured several political and business leaders from the greater Philadelphia area, to include Representatives Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), and Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) At several points during the discussion, the figure of 1.9% GDP growth during the Obama presidency was contrasted with the current GDP under Trump of 2.9%. Though there was no question and answer segment, an audience member nonetheless shouted out a question about how the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) predicted a revenue shortfall and increase of our national debt under the tax cut plan. Though the moderator attempted to move on, the panel did address the question. It was noted that the current GDP growth was outperforming the CBO estimates, and that sustained economic growth, according to Congressman MacArthur, was “our best shot” at reducing the debt. The panel also noted the many pay increases, bonuses, and expansion of benefits enjoyed by many working Americans due to the tax cuts, Vice President Pence would later provide examples of this in his own speech.
After a discussion panel on the positive effects of the tax cuts on local business and workers, and a speech from Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, Karen Dunn Kelly, the Vice President was introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta, whom Pence was in town to campaign and raise money for in an effort to unseat Democrat incumbent, Bob Casey from his position in the U.S Senate. Though Casey was advertised as a “moderate Democrat” Pence maintained that on the issues of Obamacare, taxes, and abortion, the Senator voted more like socialist Democrat Bernie Sanders. The Vice President spoke highly of Barletta, noting how he built a small line painting business in Hazleton, PA into the sixth largest of its kind in the country. Pence also mentioned how President Trump also strongly endorsed his candidacy saying, “The President and I love you,” referring to Barletta, later saying about him, “I am gratified for his service in the past, and the president, and the future.”
After thanking Rep. Barletta for a warm introduction and acknowledging his accomplishments, the Vice President started the main body of his speech by asking all of the veterans in the room to stand up and be recognized, the audience applauded and cheered as the men and women stood. He then extended is thanks to all who put on the uniform to serve their fellow citizens, especially those in law enforcement. He used that to segue into the topic of border enforcement. One of the big applause lines of the speech came when he reaffirmed his and the President’s unwavering commitment to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency better known as ICE, stating emphatically, “ We will never abolish ICE we will stand by them and give them the support they deserve.” This was in response to what he characterized as “irresponsible rhetoric by many of leading liberal Democrats,” calling for the abolition of ICE. He went on to tout several of the agency’s accomplishments, including 127,000 criminal illegal aliens arrested in the last year, nearly five thousand gang members off the streets, and one thousand children saved from child exploitation and human traffickers. He also mentioned that the administration had secured greater funding for border security to include funding for “the wall”.
The recent retirement announcement by Justice Anthony Kennedy gave Pence a reason to talk about the Trump Administration’s accomplishments getting federal court vacancies filled. He cited a record number of appointments by a presidential administration in their first year as a major achievement for Trump. When he mentioned his boss’ appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the mostly partisan room erupted into applause, applause that continued when he mentioned the name of Brett Kavanaugh, the judge President Trump recently nominated to fill the upcoming vacancy by Justice Kennedy. The Vice President reiterated the President’s wish to appoint strict constitutionalist judges to the Supreme Court, a stance strongly opposed by liberal Democrats who prefer SCOTUS justices with a more flexible view of the Constitution. He suggested that if Senator Bob Casey would not support the appointment of Kavanaugh, the people of Pennsylvania should replace him in November with someone who would.
The Vice President went on to speak of several other hot political topics that the President has addressed during his first year and a half in office, including the imminent destruction of ISIS, the dismantling of the regulatory state, and our allies’ greater monetary commitment to NATO. Pence also mentioned other promises Trump has kept such as pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement and his efforts to renegotiate international trade deals that he feels are not in the country’s best interest. He also responded to Iran’s recent saber-rattling saying, “We will not tolerate threats against the United States of America.”
The main focus of the afternoon’s event was to talk about the benefits of the recent tax cuts that went into effect on January 1st. Pence went over the highlights of the tax plan, stating that the average working family in Philadelphia will save around $2500/year in taxes under the new plan. He mentioned how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated a major component of the Affordable Care Act. “We cut out the core of Obamacare, the individual mandate is gone,” Pence said, his statement garnering approving applause. He noted that within a few weeks after the bill’s passage, companies began to offer their employees thousand dollar bonuses and that in his own family when his kids were little, there was a word for such a year-end windfall, “Christmas”. He was quick to point out that former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) infamously suggested the bonuses were mere “crumbs”, left over by greedy corporations. The mere mention of her name brought boos from many in the audience. About Pelosi’s remark, he said: “Any leader who says that a $1000 in the pockets of working Americans is nothing but ‘crumbs’ is out of touch with the American People and should never lead the American Congress again.”
Keeping on taxes, and the broader issue of the economy, Pence also listed some of the benefits he attributed to the tax cuts, the promise of better trade deals and the lessening of the regulatory burden on companies. Some of the things he gave Trump credit for were: 3.7 million new jobs since the election, including 340,000 in the manufacturing sector, record low unemployment rates among American blacks and Hispanics, and he also stated that, “more than six million people have received pay raises, bonuses, or bigger benefits,” since the signing of the tax cut bill. Another benefit he mentioned was how local corporations such as Comcast and Alamo gave $1000 bonuses and promised to upgrade their facilities. Pennsylvania based Peco Energy passed much of its tax saving onto its customers.
Vice President Pence closed his remarks with a few requests for the like-minded people in the audience. He asked that they share what they have heard there with their friends and neighbors. He suggested they tell them, “…that under President Donald Trump, the forgotten men and women are forgotten no more.” Pence also reflected upon the currently divided nature of our country and asked that they pray for America, not for an agenda or a campaign, but for all of America. “Pray for all the American people, because prayer matters,” he asked the crowd. Finally, he ended with the familiar refrain of the President, “We will make America safe again, we will make American prosperous again, and to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again.”