CHESTERTOWN — Hours after seeing a budget resolution pass in the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan was in Chestertown for a tour of a leading manufacturer here and to tout Republicans’ proposed tax reform plan.
Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, was joined by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-1st District), and Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturing, at Dixon Valve & Coupling Co., where the speaker met employees and answered their questions on how the tax and budget plans could affect them.
With a protest by local residents outside and a battery of television cameras inside, Ryan spoke about how the Republicans’ plans will growth the economy, expand manufacturing in the United States and put more money in workers’ pockets. Increased growth will be needed to offset the tax cuts that would otherwise add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to media reports.
“The reason we’re here is we want our country to prosper. We want our people to prosper. And we now, like it or not, live in a 21st century global economy. And because we live in a global economy, we face global competition. And we need to be ahead of the global competition if we want to prosper. We need to be ahead of the global competition if we want to have good jobs, good futures that pay us, that give us good paychecks, better take-home pay. This is what we’re trying to achieve,” Ryan said.
For Dick Goodall, CEO of Dixon Valve, a company started by his grandfather in 1916, the visit was a chance to highlight National Manufacturing Week and the important role the sector plays in the economy.
“This is manufacturing week and manufacturing is about making stuff. But people make stuff and people are the key to everything. It’s not what we make. It’s the people we have making it. So we’re excited we’re promoting jobs. Hopefully some of these things we’re working on in D.C. will enable us to reinvest even more money in the local economy,” Goodall said.
Harris called Dixon Valve a “first-rate company,” one that is competitive on the global market.
“The last time I was here, about four years ago, I’ll tell you some of this machinery wasn’t here. But that’s the story of American business. The fact of the matter is we’ve got to keep on moving because if we don’t, our competitors will,” Harris said.
Ryan thanked Harris for being helpful in Congress on a number of issues.
The speaker said Maryland’s Eastern Shore is not much different than his home state of Wisconsin.
“We have corn, beans and cows where I come from, and manufacturing. You have corn, beans, chickens and manufacturing and ocean. Other than that, we come from very similar areas,” Ryan told the crowd.
Keeping the United States competitive was the message Harris and Ryan aimed to drive home. Ryan spoke about how the Republican tax reform plan could do that.
Among the reforms, Republicans’ tax proposal seeks to reduce the number of income tax brackets from seven to three, double the standard deduction and increase the child tax credit, eliminate a number of loopholes and simplify the tax process to the point where people are filing returns the size of postcards.
For businesses, the plan would lower the corporate tax rate, allow businesses to write off or expense the cost of new investments and impose a low one-time tax rate on wealth accumulated overseas.
Ryan said tax reform could improve a decade of “pretty flat” economic growth. He said that lack of growth is the reason wages have been stagnant and living standards have not improved.
“We haven’t had economic growth like we used to have for like a decade. We can get it. We can do it. And tax reform is the way we’ll get this done,” Ryan told the crowd.
One Dixon Valve employee asked about controlling government spending.
Ryan agreed that spending needs to be reined in.
“But if we want to control our spending and reduce our debt in the future, you need economic growth. We need people working and getting good jobs with good wages so they pay taxes so revenue comes into the government to fix this fiscal problem that we have,” Ryan said.
Harris agreed, saying cutting spending will not reduce the debt alone. He said Republicans have a plan to spend down the debt over 10 years and economic growth is an important part of that.
“We think this is an important first step. Get our economy going again,” Harris said. “Let me tell you something, when we get our economy going, there’s no economy in the world that can beat ours.”
Another Dixon Valve employee spoke about the need for Democrats and Republicans to work together.
“That’s my biggest concern, how do we start working together as Americans to solve these problems,” he said.
Ryan said about 80 percent of what Congress does in bipartisan. He said some larger issues like health care are where the views diverge.
“On taxes, we really believe we have the consensus to do that,” Ryan said.
One woman from Dixon Valve spoke about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math programs in schools.
Ryan agreed that STEM programs are important. He acknowledged concerns over a skills gap between U.S. students and their counterparts in other countries.
Ryan wants to see educators partner with local businesses like Dixon Valve to better learn what skills are needed in the community. He said that would assure students can find jobs and businesses can find employees.
“We need to go back to the day where two-year school is cool. We need to have career and technical education where you can go and get a good degree in a vocation that gets you a really good job,” Ryan said.
After Ryan’s visit, Dixon employee and Chestertown resident Amanda Jackson said thought Ryan had a good message. Jackson said Congress and Ryan have a lot of big decisions to make.
“I only hope he will make the best ones for the people — people like us,” Jackson said.
After a closed-door roundtable discussion with Timmons and others, Ryan came back out to the shop floor for a news conference.
He took questions on calls for banning gun parts called “bump stocks” following the massacre Sunday in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump’s latest statements on the Iran nuclear deal and whether Congress should investigate purveyors of fake news.