US Senate candidates discuss tax cuts, jobs

By By Borys Krawczeniuk, Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.

Taxes are down, the economy is roaring and the federal deficit is soaring.

That about sums up the nation’s economic and budgetary outlook.

As rosy as things look economically, the candidates seeking the state’s U.S. Senate seat differ sharply on President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, as well as the best way to keep the economy going and the deficit from exploding.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a Hazleton Republican; Neal Taylor Gale, a Green from Abington Twp., Montgomery County; and Dale R. Kerns Jr., a Libertarian from Ridley Twp., Delaware County, want to unseat incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, a Scranton Democrat.

The December 2017 tax cut package looms large across taxation, budgeting and the economy.

In 2018, people in the middle 20 percent of taxpayers — $49,000 to $86,000 a year — received a 1.6 percent increase in their after-tax income, $930 on average, and 11.2 percent of the overall tax cut, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. People in the top 20 percent of taxpayers — $149,400 and above — received a 2.9 percent increase and 65.3 percent of the overall cut. The top 1 percent would get 20.5 percent of the overall cuts.

In 2027, two years after individual tax cuts expire, the middle 20 percent would see no increase in their after-tax income and their share of the overall cut would actually decline by 2.1 percent while people in the top 20 percent of income would get almost all the tax-cut benefits because taxes on investment income would stay down. The top 1 percent would get 82.8 percent of all cuts.

Republicans say it’s unlikely Congress would let the individual tax cuts expire. They say the cuts have fueled the economic surge that lowered unemployment to 3.7 percent in September. Since the cuts, the economy has created 1.875 million new jobs, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 4.06 million since January 2016 when Trump took office.

Real average hourly earnings increased 1.1 percent in September from September 2017, a measurement that takes into account inflation, according to the bureau.

The nation’s gross domestic product rose at a 4.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter, well above recent quarters.

Republicans’ predictions that the tax cuts would boost the economy were right, but the nation’s deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was $779 billion, up from $666 billion the previous year. Democrats blame the tax cuts, which they say benefitted the wealthy far too much.

Republicans blame the cost of the three main entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Barletta said his vote for the tax cut helped boost job growth, pointing to the 4 million new jobs and bonuses or wage increases offered by more than 6,000 companies. He plans to continue working to keep down taxes, prevent Democrats from implementing unnecessary regulations and help Pennsylvania capitalize on its natural gas industry.

“I think we’ve just begun to see the benefits of that,” he said. “Pennsylvania can become a state among nations. … This is an opportunity that we’re going to be able to keep our young people here.”

He acknowledged the tax cut contributed to the increased deficit, but said growth will reduce deficits in the long run. He also denied Republicans plan to target entitlement benefits for senior citizens to control spending.

“We need to make sure that those entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, are there for the long haul,” he said. “The easiest thing we can do is cut out all the waste.”

He pointed to $4.4 billion in savings he produced by requiring long-term leases of federal office space.

Casey said he has fought for projects that created thousands of jobs. They include renovation of the lock-and-dam systems on Pittsburgh’s rivers and deepening the Delaware River near Philadelphia to allow for larger cargo ships. His vote for President Barack Obama’s recovery act produced a major injection of money that reversed the recession, he said.

He voted against the tax cut because he said he thinks more should have gone to the middle class. A bigger middle-class cut and a larger child tax credit would have really boosted the economy, he said.

“Those two things alone, short-term and long-term, would lead to much more economic growth than the tax cut would,” he said.

They also would reduce deficits, he said.

Casey said he could have gone along with a smaller corporate tax cut if the revenues paid for a large infrastructure bill.

He pointed to Republicans on the House Budget Committee who he said voted in June to substantially trim Medicare and Medicaid. Barletta is not a member of that committee.

Kerns said the best way to create jobs is for government to “get out of the way and let businesses invest in their businesses, invest in their employees and compete on the marketplace.”

He wants to find incentives to get people on welfare and Social Security disability back to work, bring American troops home from Afghanistan and boost the number of available skilled workers.

He said he favors the tax cuts because taxpayers spend the money and that makes the economy healthier. He also favors eliminating the income and estate taxes and replacing them with a national value-added tax on goods and services. To trim the deficit, he would eliminate the education and agriculture departments and limit the Federal Reserve’s power.

“There’s isn’t anything I wouldn’t put on the table,” he said.

Gale said he would turn the federal government’s focus away from fossil fuels and toward encouraging use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar with the goal of 100 percent renewables someday. That will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, he said.

He said he doesn’t think the deficit is unmanageable for now, and would prefer to concentrate on incentives to get people who have stopped looking for work to return to the workforce.

Gale said he would alter the tax cuts to benefit lower- and middle-income citizens because the current tax structure overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy, who, he warned, are usurping the federal government to benefit themselves.

“It’s being normalized day in and day out,” he said.

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U.S. Senate race

Name: Louis John Barletta

Party: Republican

Age: 62

Residence: Hazleton, Luzerne County

Family: Wife, Mary Grace; children, Kelly, April, Lindsey and Grace

Education: Hazleton High School, 1973; attended Luzerne County Community College and Bloomsburg State College

Experience: Worked for family construction business, A. Barletta & Sons, 1974-84; owner, Interstate Road Marking Corp., 1984-2000; city councilman, Hazleton, 1998-2000: mayor, Hazleton, 2000-11; congressman, 2011-present

Name: Robert Patrick Casey Jr.

Party: Democratic

Age: 58

Residence: Scranton, Lackawanna County

Family: Wife, Terese; children, Elyse, Caroline, Julia and Marena

Education: Scranton Preparatory School, 1978; bachelor’s degree, English, College of the Holy Cross, 1982; law degree, Catholic University of America, 1988

Experience: Lawyer, private practice, Scranton, 1988-97; Pennsylvania auditor general 1997-2005; Pennsylvania treasurer, 2005-06; U.S. senator, 2007-present

8th Congressional District race

Name: Matthew Alton Cartwright

Party: Democratic

Age: 57

Residence: Moosic, Lackawanna County

Family: Wife, Marion Munley; children, John and Matthew Jr.

Education: Upper Canada College (high school), 1979; bachelor’s degree, history, Hamilton College, 1983; law degree, University of Pennsylvania, 1986

Experience: Lawyer, Montgomery, McCracken, Walker and Rhoads, Philadelphia, 1986-88; lawyer/shareholder, Munley, Munley & Cartwright, Scranton, 1988-2012; congressman, 2013-present

Name: John Robert Chrin

Party: Republican

Age: 55

Residence: Barrett Twp., Monroe County

Family: Wife, Maria; children, John, Catherine Rose and Elizabeth

Education: Easton Area High School, 1981; bachelor’s degree, economics and foreign careers, Lehigh University, 1985; bachelor’s degree, industrial engineering, Lehigh University, 1986; master’s degree, business administration, Columbia University, 1988. All his degrees were with honors.

Experience: During college, union laborer, Keystone Food Products, Easton, and Roadway, Tannersville; busboy/dishwasher, Minsi Trail Inn, Bethlehem; industrial engineer, Procter & Gamble, Staten Island, New York, and Merck, Doylestown; teaching assistant at Columbia; JPMorganChase, 1987-94 and 1999-2009, rose from associate to managing director, banks and financial institutions mergers and acquisitions; director, Merrill Lynch, 1994-99; professor/global financial services executive-in-residence, Lehigh University, 2009-12; partner, Circle Wealth Management, 2012-present

Name: Neal Taylor Gale

Party: Green

Age: 66

Residence: Glenside, Abington Twp., Montgomery County

Family: Wife, Wendy; children, Bronwen and Harper

Education: Moorestown, New Jersey, Friends School, 1970; studied architecture at Drexel University; studied solar technology, Glassboro State College

Experience: Manager, low-income, energy affordability/efficiency program, Honeywell, started at company in 1986; associate member, the Abington Twp. Energy Advisory Council, 2016-present; member, Montgomery County Green Party, 2016-present; delegate, Pennsylvania Green Party, 2016-present; member, National Green Party EcoAction Committee, 2016-present; involved in clean energy and conservation since 1978

Name: Dale Ronald Kerns Jr.

Party: Libertarian

Age: 34

Residence: Swarthmore, Ridley Twp., Delaware County

Family: Wife, Nicole; children, Hailey and Sophia

Education: Ridley High School, 2002; associate degree, political science and government, Delaware County Community College, 2003; master electrician, five-year apprenticeship, Chester Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, 2003-08; attended Widener University, studied project management and sociology, 2010-14

Experience: Journeyman electrician, 2002-13; councilman, Eddystone Borough, 2012-14; president, Little Angels Foundation, 2010-15; project manager/estimator, Re-volt Electric LLC, 2010-15; project manager/estimator, Nickle Electrical Companies, 2015-17; project manager, Tri-M Group LLC, 2017-present; board member, Goodwill Industries of Delaware County, 2016-present

This article provided by NewsEdge.