vw polo r House speaker visits New Balance amidst peaceful protest
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday brought the Republican campaign for tax reform to New Balance’s factory floor, where he told workers that the cornerstones of the GOP tax plan cutting rates and simplifying forms would make the athletic shoes they produce more competitive and their own lives more affordable.
“Imagine filling out your taxes on a form the size of a postcard,” Ryan told about 100 workers in an eight minute address after meeting privately in the South Union Street building with New Balance executives, local business leaders and Mayor Daniel Rivera before then touring the factory floor. “We’re talking about simplifying this thing so much, that it’s so easy, you don’t have to go to a tax preparer. You don’t have to navigate all these rules and deductions and loopholes, not knowing what it’s going to look like ’til you’re done with the process. Make it easy. Make it simple. Keep more of what you earn. Get the special interests out of it. And get people a post card type tax return. That’s what we’re talking about.”
Ryan said the tax plan that Congressional Republicans and President Trump are developing would double the standard deduction now at $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for married couples filing jointly and preserve a handful of itemized deductions, including for charitable contributions, retirement savings and buying a home.
He was not specific about the tax rates he would favor for individuals and couples. Ryan said corporate tax rates should be cut to what they are in countries such as Canada, where he said businesses pay a 15 percent tax on their incomes, or Ireland (12.5 percent) or England (18 percent). In the United States, the rate is 35 or 45 percent, depending on the size of the business.
Ryan also predicted the tax overhaul would pass where the Republican effort to replace Obamacare failed because he said that although the grand scheme of the plan would be written by Republican leaders on Capital Hill and President Trump, the detailed version would be written in bi partisan committees in the House and Senate. The bill that would have replaced Obamacare was written entirely in Republican caucuses that excluded Democrats.
Ryan’s visit was tightly scripted and lasted about two hours, much of it in the closed door meeting with local business leaders, including New Balance’s owner Jim Davis, and its president and CEO, Rob DeMartini. The workers gave Ryan a polite reception and applauded a few of his promises; Davis and DeMartini were more enthusiastic in separate remarks.
“Let’s hope the new legislation is the beginning of a new era, ending a 10 year downturn and limiting our country from reaching its full potential,” Davis said as he introduced Ryan to the New Balance workers. He also called for an end to gridlock and restoring the “bipartisanship, civility and mutual trust” that characterized the relationship between former President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, and former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Democrat from Boston, in the 1980s.
DeMartini said Ryan contacted New Balance asking to stage the event there during what President Trump declared as “Made in America Week” because the company throughout its 110 year history has made much of its products in the United States.
Lawrence otherwise was an improbable choice to pitch the Republican tax plan, in part because the city is so heavily Democratic and because nearly 40 percent of its residents are first generation immigrants. The city recently sued President Trump in an effort to block an executive order he signed that would cut federal funding for local law enforcement programs in municipalities that are limiting cooperation with immigration agents seeking undocumented immigrants. The order has stalled in the courts.
Ryan said Rivera did not raise the issue, during the private roundtable discussion, with business leaders. But he noted that Rivera left the session before it ended to go to a major residential fire in the city.
Before Ryan arrived, Rivera joined a demonstration protesting Ryan’s visit across Merrimack Street from the New Balance building. Rivera said at the demonstration that he would press Ryan on immigration issues.
“I’m a kid from the projects,” Rivera said. “I know how to speak truth to power.”
The lively demonstration drew about 200 people and was peaceful. Demonstrators shouted chants and held signs countering nearly every position Ryan and President Trump have taken on issues, including immigrant rights, health care, public education and tax reform.
“I’m an immigrant; I’m off the boat,” said Kevin McCarthy, 44, an economic development consultant from Haverhill. McCarthy said he immigrated from Ireland in 1994 seeking economic opportunity at a time when Ireland was in a deep recession.
“I want Paul Ryan to know he can’t come here for a photo opp and pretend everything’s fine while he is systematically destroying the social fabric of the country,” McCarthy said.
He held a sign that said, “Ryan is an immigrant name.”
Ryan’s staff declined to say whether Ryan had other stops scheduled in the region. But published reports said he left Lawrence for a fundraiser on Nantucket.
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