Middle Class Hopes Unfulfilled by President

By Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3)

Bringing people together to solve problems and improve the everyday lives of middle-class Americans has always been my top priority in Congress.  Unfortunately, not enough people in Washington make this their priority. 

Americans in the middle class know that they have often been forgotten or ignored.  President Trump promised that he would change that by delivering trade deals that help the middle class, a much-needed boost for manufacturing, a trillion dollar infrastructure bill, and tax reform that would provide relief for the middle class.  But so far, the President has failed to deliver.

On trade, President Trump has delivered little in terms of real change.  He began the year by officially killing off the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but that deal was already dead thanks to the aggressive fight some of us in Congress put up to let people know how bad this deal would be for middle-class Americans. 

Since then, the President has declined to declare China a currency manipulator even though he said he would stop this unfair trade practice.  He has also failed so far to take action against steel imports – up almost 20% this year – that are not only hurting American workers, but also our national security.  In late October, I joined almost 70 of my colleagues in calling on him to finally act. 

Similarly on manufacturing there has been little action by the White House.  Thanks to a bill that I wrote that got signed into law in the 113th Congress – the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act – the Administration will be required this Spring to publish a plan to boost American manufacturing.  It will be the first time since Alexander Hamilton that America has had a manufacturing strategy.  It is critical that the Trump Administration fulfills its obligation and produces a good plan because manufacturing jobs are the type of high-quality jobs that America’s middle class needs. 

On election night last year President Trump mentioned only one specific policy in his speech – a trillion dollar infrastructure plan.  More than a year later, we have yet to see a bill much less have any action on what could have had bipartisan support.  The vague plan we have seen mentions only $200 billion in federal money that I have serious doubts will work.  In fact, I have said this directly to the President’s infrastructure policy director. 

The only specific plans we’ve seen on infrastructure from the White House this year were in the President’s budget, which proposed significant cuts for transportation.  Fortunately, we have been able to fight off those cuts so far, but the Third District, our region, and our nation need a robust infrastructure bill that will fix transportation systems, including public transportation, water and sewer systems, and other infrastructure in desperate need of repair.  This would not only put people to work in the short term, but also make our economy more efficient, producing jobs in the long term. 

The tax bill at this point looks like a complete failure for the middle class despite Republican promises.  The bill adds $1.5 trillion to our debt over 10 years, with corporations receiving $1 trillion, a very wealthy few receiving about $100 billion through eliminating the estate tax, and about $300 billion in cuts spread out among all other taxpayers. 

The House bill, which I voted against, takes away deductions that are critical to middle-class families, such as the deductions for student loan interest and for extraordinary medical expenses.  In addition, the House bill severely curtails the deduction for state and local taxes paid, with the Senate version of the bill completely taking this away.  This will particularly hurt people in high tax areas such as ours. 

I had hoped to vote for tax reform because we all know our country needs it, but this is not reform and worst of all it doesn’t help – and in some ways hurts – the middle class.  I hope, but do not expect, the bill to change significantly before final passage. 

Finally, there is one issue that doesn’t just impact the middle class but impacts all Americans – especially women – which needs to be addressed.  The stories we are hearing about sexual harassment and assault are sickening, and we now know that Congress has been the site of some of this horrible behavior. 

We must do all we can to fight the scourge of sexual harassment and all harassment in our society.  In Congress, we need to change how we deal with incidents of harassment.  That is why I am cosponsoring the ME TOO Congress Act to empower victims to bring mistreatment to light and have cases adequately adjudicated.  There is so much that we as a society need to do to ensure that all individuals are treated with dignity at all times.  I am hopeful that this moment will cause a real significant move toward that goal.  

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