GOP Congressman Robert Pittenger—Giving Tax Cuts to the Middle Class Equals “Socialism” January 2, 2018
It’s all about the “B” word, “Branding.” That’s right, the GOP and its members should be renamed the “GOBP”, the “Grand Old Branding Party.” In the era of George W Bush, W and his GOP Congress branded an anti-environmental bill the “Clear Skies Act.” Fortunately, that bill died “Schoolhouse Rock” style in a Senate committee (Wash. Post, 3/09/05). However, most of the time, the GOP is very successful with its branding tactics. Exhibit A—Donald Trump winning a surprise 11/08/2016 electoral victory in the key swing states of MI, WI, and PA by branding himself the “billionaire populist.” Donald falsely branded himself as the fellow who felt the Rust Belt’s pain for its loss of jobs to foreign competition and promised to bring them back. Since his election, an analysis of Labor Department data by the labor coalition Good Jobs Nation found more than 93,000 U.S. jobs have been eliminated due to foreign trade. That’s more than the average 87,500 jobs per year eliminated during the previous five years. This coalition found that the number of jobs outsourced by federal contractors has actually risen since Donald’s election, contrary to his promises. Since 11/2016, some of the biggest federal contractors have offshored some 10, 269 jobs, or 11% of trade-related layoffs, compared to just 4% in the previous 5 years under Obama (See “The Hill,” 11/30/17, Greenwood, Huffington Post).
Trump promised during the campaign a tax plan where the super-rich, including him, would pay their fair share and loopholes that helped them would be closed. Once again, Trump broke this promise to his middle-class supporters. In office, Trump morphed into a full supply-side conservative who embraced the long-discredited idea that big tax cuts to the wealthy would spur economic growth and “trickle down” to the rest of us (See “One Nation After Trump,”2017, Dionne, Ornstein, & Mann). The GOP majority House and Senate gladly went along with Trump. On 12/20/2017, with not one “Nay” GOP Senate vote and with just 12 “Team Red” House dissenters, Congress passed a tax cut that Trump quickly signed. This tax cut raised the deficit by $1.46 trillion over a decade. It gave “y uu ge” tax cuts to the super-rich, big corporations, and the GOP donor Koch, Mercer, DeVos class (CNN, Krugman, NY Times). Billionaire Donald himself could gain at least $11 million under this rammed through legislation, and at least 16 GOP Senators could get big tax breaks (NY Times, Drucker, & Carlsen,12/22/2017, KOS, AKALib, 12/19/17). The small “crumbs” of tax relief for the middle class are not permanent, only the corporate tax cuts. At least 4.1 million Americans will end up being unable to fully deduct their state and local property taxes, income, and sales taxes. New homebuyers will not be fully able to deduct the interest on their mortgages (See Vasel, moneycnn.com, 12/17/17).
The public hates this tax bill. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey (PPP), only 29% of voters support this bill while 49% oppose it. The more people learn about this bill, the more opposed they become. Only 26% believe it will help the middle class, while 61% believe it will benefit “the wealthy and large corporations (shareblue.com, 12/14/17).” GOPers could care less about this poll or others. It’s branding time for them. They would try to brand horse manure as chocolate cake, if they had to, something one could truly call this tax cut bill. According to Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), “If we can’t sell, (read, brand), this to the American people we ought to go into another line of work. I think it’s a little easier to sell that you have more money in your pocket than the government running the health care-system.” McConnell errs. Support for the now popular Obamacare hovered around 40% when the law was approved in 2010, about ten points higher than for this Trump 1% super rich tax cut (See Chait, 12/21/17, nymag.com).
So far, this GOP tax cut branding has gotten off to a poor start. Although he voted for this bill, FL Republican Sen. Marco Rubio stated, “I thought we went too far on (helping) corporations (Huffington Post, Grenoble,12/29/17).” At a 12/22/2017 holiday dinner at his Mar-a-Lago FL exclusive club, Donald told his friends, when discussing the tax cut bill, “You all just got a lot richer (cbsnews.com).” And here’s what Cong. Robert Pittenger had to say. In an interview with MSNBC’s Katy Tur, she asked him why not give the money the tax cut gave to corporations who already have plenty of it to middle and lower- class people who make less and could reinvest in themselves. Pittenger called any such direct payment to the middle and lower classes, “the concept of socialism. When you’re transferring wealth from one person to another.” Pittenger stated that only tax cuts to corporations who “create more jobs” can give more “revenue back to the government.” He told Tur that a “large majority of working Americans own stock in corporations (shareblue.com, 12/26/17).” Pittenger blew it again. According to Gallup, just 52%, over a slight majority of Americans, own stock in corporations, down from 65% a decade ago, with the middle class and the young less likely to invest (gallup.com, McCarthy, 4/20/16). And few major corporations plan to invest the tax cut savings they get (LA Times, Puzzanghera & Lee, 11/25/17). Who is this Cong. Pittenger?
Third-term GOP Congressman Robert Pittenger (69) currently represents North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, CD (Cong. At Your Fingertips, 115th Congress). The Tar Heel State 9th CD’s latest boundaries were drawn up in 2/2016, following litigation in a U.S. District Court that overturned its previous gerrymandered boundaries. The latest NC 9th CD is located in that state’s south-central area. It includes Union, Anson, Richmond, Scotland, and Robeson counties. A southeast portion of Mecklenburg County and most of Cumberland and Bladen Counties are in the 9th . The Charlotte suburbs and the city of Fayetteville are part of the 9th. Charlotte is a banking and financial center where many of the 9th’s constituents work (CQ Barone Alamanac 14). The 12/06/2017 Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives the 9th an R+7 lean.
Dallas, Texas born Robert Pittenger attended the University of Texas. After his graduation, Pittenger worked as a key organizer of the evangelical Campus Crusade for Christ during the 1970’s. In 1985, he moved to Charlotte and became a real estate investor. As his business connections grew, he became involved with the GOP (CQ & Barone 14 Almanac). In 2002, Pittenger won a seat in the NC State Senate. He successfully ran for re-election in 2004 and 2006 and handily won. He was a lead sponsor of right-to-life legislation and an anti-gay marriage amendment. He pushed for medical malpractice limitations. He advocated big tax cuts on the state’s top earners and for corporations. He proposed $1.5 billion in spending cuts, including slashing Medicaid (ourcampaigns.com, robertpittenger.com, “Charlotte Observer, 5/21/04, “Triad Business Journal,” 2/02/05). Pittenger was not known as a negotiator. In 2007, he was ranked by the non-partisan NC Center for Public Policy 49 out of 50 State Senators in effectiveness (CQ & Barone 14). In 2008, Pittenger left the State Senate and unsuccessfully ran for Lt. Governor. When the incumbent GOP 9th CD Congresswoman announced she would not run in 2012, Pittenger jumped into this race. Pittenger won his GOP primary, one marked by bitter mudslinging and aided by his own massive spending. In the 11/2012 general election, Pittenger defeated his Dem. rival by 6 points (CQ & Barone 14). He was handily re-elected in 2014. In 2016, Pittenger won his primary by just 133 votes after a recount, but clobbered his Democratic opponent in the general election by 16.4 % (NC Board of Elections).
In the House, Pittenger sits on the Financial Services Committee, a key post for a Congressman who represents people who work in Charlotte’s financial sector (See 115th Cong. At Your Fingertips). He is a member of the Republican Study Committee(RSC). The RSC is the most conservative bloc and dominant force within the House (CQ 14). Pittenger votes with GOP Cong. Kevin Brady (R-TX) 95% of the time. Rep. Brady is chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and played a crucial role in drafting and pushing through this radical tax cut bill (See projectspropublica.org). Pittenger has voted in line with Donald’s positions 96.4% of the time. One of the few times Pittenger disagreed with Trump was when he voted against disaster aid to Puerto Rico (projects fivethirtyeight .com). Pittenger has denied global warming despite overwhelming scientific evidence. In fact, as early as 2008, Pittenger sent a controversial book, “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” to his state senate colleagues (“Charlotte Observer,” 2/05/06, 5/14/06, digtriad.com WFMY-TV, 10/24/07, “Climate Change”). In his three races for Congress, anti-environmentalist Koch Industries has given Pittenger at least $20,000 (Opensecrets.org, 2012, 2014, & 2016).
Cong. Pittenger’s wacky statement about tax cuts for the middle class equaling “socialism” is not the only controversial statement he has made. Pittenger supported the GOP’s recent attempt to repeal Obamacare that died this past summer in the Senate. On 5/02/17, he defended a GOP provision in the House’s version of that bill that would allow states to end requirements that insurers could not discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. He callously remarked that Americans with pre-existing conditions can move to a state without this waiver (“Chalotte Observer,” Morrill, 5/02/17). On 9/22/2016, Pittenger told the BBC that the violent protests in Charlotte over the police shooting of 43-year old black resident Keith Lamont Scott stemmed from protestors who “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.” After a national and international outcry over this comment, Pittenger apologized for this remark (Newsobserver.com, Mele, NY Times, 9/23/16).
Pittenger is currently being challenged in the 5/08/2018 NC GOP primary by former Baptist pastor, Dan Harris, the fellow who almost beat him in the 2016 primary. Pittenger has already been on radio and cable TV showing how strong he is in fighting FOX’s “War Against Christmas” (Pathe, rollcall.com, 11/27/17). Pittenger will certainly spend more money and get more GOP financial assistance.
The Democratic Congressional Committee (DCCC), which recruits and funds House challengers, has listed Pittenger’s 9th Tar Heel CD as one of their initial 2018 targets. Even if Pittenger is bloodied again by Harris, winning here will not be easy, with the 9th’s Cook R+7 lean. The race is presently rated as “Likely Republican (electionguide /house).” However, Democrats now look like they will have a wave midterm 2018 election year. They have good odds at recapturing the House, which requires a net flip of 24 seats (See LA Times, Lauter, 12/31/17). The more of a “Blue” House margin, the better. After Doug Jones’ Dem. Senate 12/12/2017 upset win in “Dripping Red” AL, a NC CD 9th “Blue” flip is more than possible, and every seat must be contested. However, to flip the 9th, Democrats and anti-Trump moderates must come out in droves on 11/06/2018, midterm election day. Democrats must get behind the eventual winner of NC’s Dem. primary, heavily backed Marine veteran Dan McCready, Christian Cano who lost to Pittenger in 2016, or any other candidate who may yet enter and win (Pathe, rollcall.com, 5/24/17). Yes, Pittenger faced a hostile town hall crowd in 9/2017 (washingtonexaminer.com, Langille, 9/01/17). However, demonstrations and town hall opposition do not ultimately count. The only way to check Trump’s excesses is to vote in droves in the NC 9th and throughout the country. Our New Year’s Resolution for 2018—we Democrats must vote in that midterm election and in every other one that follows. “Falling asleep” during election years, as Obama noted, is politically fatal for “Team Blue.”