Congressional candidates share trade, tax cut philosophies at candidates' forum
By Ginger Livingston
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Tax cuts and trade wars were two of the issues discussed by candidates in the special election for the 3rd Congressional District during a forum hosted on Tuesday by the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce.
More than 140 people attended the event at the Greenville Convention Center to hear from Democrat Allen Thomas, Republican Greg Murphy, Constitution Party candudate Greg Holt and Libertarian Tim Harris.
The special election is necessary because of the vacancy created by the death of U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr.
Early voting in the election begins today.
Thomas said Tuesday’s event was the first time all four candidates have appeared together at the same event.
The one-hour session was spent answering questions submitted by chamber of commerce members.
The first question sought the candidates’ opinions on tax cut legislation signed by the president in 2017.
The legislation dropped the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 27 percent and lowered the tax rate for top taxpayers. It doubled the standard income tax exemption for most filers but eliminated most personal exemptions and limits the deduction of mortgage interest.
It preserved student-loan interest deductions, deductions for high medical expenses and a tax break for graduate students. It also expanded the child tax credit.
Individual tax cuts are scheduled to go away in 2026.
Harris said he had a problem with the tax law — there was a tax cut but no cut in spending.
"All we are doing is raising taxes on the next generation,” he said. “A tax cut without a spending cut is just a tax hike later on.”
Holt said he was dismayed when Jones voted against the tax cut.
“I was for it but at the same time, Mr. Harris is right," he said. "We reduced it but we increased spending. We need to get in there and cut things that aren’t good for us.”
Holt pointed to the $4.6 billion included in the recent budget to improve conditions at migrant detention centers on the border, which he called “humanitarian aid.”
Murphy said he thinks the tax cuts spurred the economy.
"We literally have the best economy we’ve had in 50 years," he said. "Our unemployment is at record (lows) so there is more money going to our federal government.”
The nation’s problems don’t stem from tax cuts but the unwillingness to cut federal spending, Murphy said.
“With this economy our deficient should be decreasing," he said. "If you want big government, I’m not your candidate.”
Thomas said he feels like there was an element of "bait and switch" with this particular plan.
"It was temporary for those in the middle class, for those with lower economic standards, but it’s long term for the corporations,” he said.
The tax plan has allowed companies to avoid taxes, Thomas said. As for the economy, there are still many people who are having to work multiple jobs and have no health insurance, he said.
The candidates were questioned about the ongoing trade dispute between China and the United States and its effect on North Carolina. It noted that North Carolina exports $2 billion in products to China and the trade dispute has resulted in decreased sales of pork products, tobacco and lumber, much of which is produced in the state.
Holt: “I know the tariffs are hurting right now but I know at some one we needed to step up and see if we can get on an equal playing field.”
The tariffs will help in the end. Farmers also need to look at their production to ensure they are not overproducing, he said.
Murphy: “I believe in free trade, I believe in free markets. That’s how America has made its impact on the world.” He doesn’t support tariffs but past administrations have ignored China’s unfair trade practices which have harmed United States companies.
Tariffs brought Mexico and Canada back to the negotiating table and the result is Mexico is working to stem illegal immigration into the United States.
“If there short-term pain? For sure, are farmers are definitely suffering but hopefully, in the long-term, they’ll come back to the table … because China is suffering.”
Thomas: “There’s no question China has exploded its economy over the last 20 years on our backs.” It’s been out of balance and it should have been addressed, he said.
“We are now in a situation that if we are going to have a strategy with such draconian measures it’s got to be part of a holistic approach," he said. "… If you are going to impose tariffs you have to protect the most vulnerable parts of our economy.”
Harris: “Trade wars are bad and they are hard to win.” The prosperity of the nation has been based on its ability to move goods and services across open borders and that includes labor through immigration.
“Free trade has imbalances, that happens. It’s not a bump, it’s part of the system,” he said.
The 3rd Congressional district includes 17 eastern North Carolina counties that stretch from the Camp Lejeune area to the Virginia border. Pitt County is divided between the 3rd and 1st Congressional Districts.
Contact Ginger Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9570.