Nancy Pelosi Comes To Cambridge To Rip ‘GOP Tax Scam Bill’ — But Some Like Their ‘Crumbs’

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CAMBRIDGE — Soaring rhetoric touching on themes of inequality and corporate private sector political clout dominated Thursday’s “Trump Tax Town Hall” event featuring House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, part of the Democratic Party’s push to make the GOP’s recent tax overhaul a wedge issue ahead of this fall’s midterm elections.

“Think of it this way — there’s a dark cloud hanging over the Capitol — it’s the GOP tax scam bill,” Pelosi said during her opening remarks. “It’s a total rip-off on the American people.”

For Pelosi, Thursday’s appearance in Democrat-friendly Cambridge marked an opportunity to label the GOP-led tax reform as a “handout to donors.” She urged the audience to scrutinize the wave of bonuses, raises, and rate cuts that followed President Donald Trump’s signing of the tax reform bill in December.

At one point Pelosi recalled earlier comments she and other prominent Democrats had made regarding the additional money she acknowledged is now flowing into the pockets of Americans.

“There is a tax advantage in the beginning for workers and that’s their enticement,” the San Francisco Democrat told the crowd. “While they give banquets to … the high end, to corporate America, and I say ‘crumbs,’ they mock me in ads for saying that, compared to what they get at the high end, and to do that, they mortgage our children’s future.”

Pelosi said Americans seeing bonuses now “will pay the price later” and also deflected accusations from Republicans that the Democrats are the party of “tax-and-spend.”

“Now people say that Democrats are about tax-and-spend, but that’s exactly what government does,” Pelosi said, drawing laughter from the attendees. “It acquires revenue.”

She also praised Congressional Black Caucus members who refused to clap at Tuesday’s State of the Union when Trump noted that the African-American unemployment rate has reached historic lows.

Media attention focused on Pelosi in Cambridge. (Evan Lips — NewBostonPost)

The discussion, held inside Cambridge Public Library and boasting a progressive-friendly audience, also saw appearances from U.S. representatives Mike Capuano and Katherine Clark. Capuano, who is now facing a primary challenge from Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, called into question the effectiveness of previous GOP-led tax cuts enacted under presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

“This bill is a set up for the very people who voted for it to go after the programs they always hated,” Capuano said.

He later questioned whether most Americans truly want the extra income generated by a tax cut.

“Yeah you’ll get a few more bucks in your pocket,” he said. “But what bothers me is the thought that Americans only care about themselves. The people I know and represent know that we’re part of a greater society.”

Capuano also introduced Pelosi.

“The most important thing you can do about this is to make sure that come January 2019, Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House of Representatives,” he said, generating applause.

Clark meanwhile said the “most telling sections of the bill that passed the House without a single Democratic vote showed exactly what their [the GOP’s] values are in terms of future generations.”

“When they said they were going to make huge tax cuts to corporations, to the wealthiest, but to graduate students they said the tuition that you get so you are able to contribute to science and to education is going to now be charged as income to you,” she said. “We don’t need to know anymore about where they value our future teachers, scientists, and innovators.”

Seth Hanlon, who now works as a senior tax fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, following a stint serving as former President Barack Obama’s economic policy assistant, also sat in on the panel. Hanlon claimed that the “flashy announcements” of bonuses and wage hikes are not “because of the tax cut.”

“Companies don’t just give their workers money because they have extra money,” he said. “We know this because corporate profits after tax have been going up and up and up, to record levels, and wages have been stagnant.”

A major facet of the tax reform deal authored by Republicans saw the American federal corporate tax rate plunge from 35 percent, the third-highest in the world, to 21 percent.

Ahead of the discussion, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern reminded the audience of his city’s progressive credentials, pointing out the fact that Cambridge was “one of the first to become a sanctuary city” for illegal aliens and also the “first city where same-sex couples could legally marry.”

“And at around the same time last year we became the largest city on the East Coast to call for an impeachment investigation,” he added, referring to the Cambridge City Council’s vote in favor of a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump over the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits people holding federal office from accepting payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress.

There was at least one attendee who wasn’t clapping throughout Thursday’s event.

Toting a handmade sign praising the tax reform bill and clad in a pro-Trump vest, Joe DiStasio of Braintree — who owns a tree-cutting business — said the reform is already paying off. DiStasio also happens to be a pro-Trump figure who landed a federal job in the Small Business Administration, according to a critical Boston Globe profile.

Joe DiStasio of Braintree. (Evan Lips — NewBostonPost)

“I’m feeling it,” he said, during an interview following the event. “I’ve never gotten anything in the past eight years.

“How can you complain? I’m not complaining. I’ll take all the crumbs I can get.”

He said the message of the tax cuts “only benefiting the wealthy” is not going to resonate with middle class and working class voters.

“They have to stop calling it crumbs, I’ll take a plateful of crumbs.”

Following the event, state Representative Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican who is one of three GOPers challenging U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, held a press conference of his own outside the library. Diehl unfurled an 18-foot banner listing businesses that have either hiked wages or boosted their employee benefit packages.

“They consider thousand-dollar bonuses crumbs, it’s surprising the Democratic Party actually even talks that way,” Diehl said.

Asked about the glum faces of Democrats who attended Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Diehl said he felt “disappointed to see Democrats on the other side of the aisle not even willing to celebrate the fact that we’re finally putting America first.”

“You know, Elizabeth Warren has talked about ‘crumbs’ with this tax reform bill, but it’s anything but crumbs,” Diehl added. “In fact I’ve got 18 feet of ‘not crumbs’ that are helping Americans with tax deductions.”