In Minnesota, Trump talks up tax law, strong economy
Updated 5:05 p.m. | Posted 6 a.m.
President Trump played up the benefits of his tax cuts on Monday's tax filing day in a state where he's aiming to turn a narrow defeat in the 2016 presidential race into a victory in his re-election bid next year.
"We promised these tax cuts would be rocket fuel for the American economy and we were absolutely right," Trump told an audience at a trucking company where a red, white and blue banner exclaimed: "USA open for business."
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"You're got a very prosperous America, with low unemployment," the president said at Nuss Truck and Equipment. "I would say Americans approve of a prosperous economy" that has been rebuilt by Trump's policies.
Video: President Trump in Burnsville
The $1.5 trillion, 10-year package of tax cuts Trump signed into law in 2017 helped accelerate economic growth in 2018 to a rate of 3 percent, based on the administration's preferred measure of comparing the fourth quarter of 2018 to the same period in 2017.
Trump said the tax cuts have put more money in Minnesotans' pockets.
"Thanks to our tremendous tax cuts, the biggest ever, Minnesota families are saving more than $5 billion on their 2018 tax bills, 5 billion."
The tax cuts, while big, are not actually the biggest in U.S. history. A $1.5 trillion tax cut ranks 12th as a share of the total economy, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Most economists — including at the Federal Reserve — anticipate growth will slump this year to just above 2 percent as the stimulus from the tax cuts wanes. The White House insists growth will again top 3 percent this year, saying the benefits from a reduced corporate tax rate and other reductions will boost performance.
Larry Kudlow, director of the president's National Economic Council, pushed back against critics who argue the reductions benefited corporations more than average Americans. Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Sunday the tax cuts had added trillions of dollars to the nation's debt and disproportionately helped the wealthy.
"Take a look at the numbers," Kudlow said Monday at the White House. He said weekly earnings are up and more people are working and prospering. "This is the hottest economy in the world."
About a dozen people on Trump's panel thanked him for the tax cuts.
Some of the business owners at the roundtable were from Florida and Nevada. They talked about how the Republican tax law has made life better for them, allowing them to buy more vehicles for their companies, for example, or hand out employee bonuses.
Megan Brockway, who directs human relations for Nuss' 350 employees, said all they got bonuses last year. She said she's seen firsthand how that money and increased take home pay have made a difference in their daily lives.
"A lot of people would say they were able to have an extra great Christmas with their family, maybe donate more to charity, invest in their kid's college expenses, maybe up that 401-K contribution a little bit," she said. "So, it's been really great to see what people have been able to do with that extra money they're getting."
Trump said nationally eight out of 10 families saw lower taxes. A typical family earning $75,000, he said, got a $2,000 annual tax cut.
Companies are reaping benefits, using their savings to buy back stock at a record pace, according to TrimTabs Investment Research. But so far, the tax cuts haven't delivered a major shot of financial adrenaline to most families.
The president's focus on tax day served to highlight his refusal to release his own tax returns.
Trump bucked decades of presidential tradition by declining to show voters his tax filings, both as a candidate and as president. He says he won't release the returns because he's being audited by the IRS though the agency says an audit bars no one from making their returns public. A key House committee, citing a 1920s law, has given the administration until April 23 to hand over six years' worth of Trump's business and personal returns.
A Trump opponent welcomed the president to Burnsville with a sign that said: "Demand Trump's Tax Returns and a List of his Creditors."
Trump's demeanor was more subdued than during campaign rallies, but the content of his message was similar to things he regularly says before large crowds. He talked about the need for immigration reform, predicting Republicans could take back the House on that issue alone. He also talked about fighting for better trade deals and holding North Korea accountable.
Trump narrowly lost Minnesota to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 and is hoping to flip the state in 2020. But history would appear to be against him: Minnesota has not voted for a Republican for president since Richard Nixon in 1972.
"This has been a very special state and we almost won it," Trump said. Speaking of the scene outside the warehouse, he added: "I see American flags waving all over and it's beautiful."
The head of Minnesota Republican Party said GOP leaders distributed more than 300 tickets to the invitation-only event.
Bonn Clayton,80, was one of the ticket holders. He's optimistic about the Trump's chances in next year's election and thinks Trump will be no stranger to Minnesota between now and then.
"He's going to target Minnesota," Clayton said
As Trump wrapped up his Burnsville event, he signaled Clayton might be right.
"I will just tell you Minnesota I'm with you 1000 percent, not 100," he said as the audience cheered, "1,000 percent."