Paul Ryan brings tidings of tax change to Delaware County factory workers

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Workers listen to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speak at the Pennsylvania Machine Works, a family-owned pipe-fitting manufacturer, in Aston, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Workers listen to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speak at the Pennsylvania Machine Works, a family-owned pipe-fitting manufacturer, in Aston, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Inside a rust-colored building in Aston Township, the Pennsylvania Machine Works turns out high-pressure piping used by gas and nuclear energy companies.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan chose the Delaware County company, founded during the Great Depression, to promote a Republican-authored proposal to overhaul the federal tax code.

“We want the country to be confident,” he told some of the 150 workers at the plant Thursday, promising the plan would create jobs and raise wages.

Hearing about the proposal for sweeping tax changes for businesses and individuals, employees of the company known as Penn Machine pressed the speaker for more details on how the framework would improve their lives.

“How can we guarantee that by cutting the corporate tax rate by 15 percent that it will trickle down to the blue-collar workers and not the CEOs,” asked Richard Bennett, a crew leader at the company.

“Well, first of all, [executives] are already getting paid well,” said Ryan, arguing that businesses need to locate in the U.S. for domestic workers to benefit at all.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Rep. Pat Meehan, in protective eyewear with their shirt sleeves rolled up, visit a factory
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., center, accompanied by Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa, left, visits the Pennsylvania Machine Works, a family-owned pipe-fitting manufacturer, in Aston, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

During the 20-minute presentation, U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, a Delaware County Republican, stood by Ryan’s side, and took the microphone to promise the middle-class workers that the plan focuses on them.

“This tax [plan] is not about the rich,” he said, echoing President Donald Trump’s comments that he would not personally benefit from the proposal. “It’s about coming back and giving you a chance to put more money in your pocket.”

Meehan is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax legislation. Under the proposed framework, income tax for the highest income bracket would drop from 39.5 to 35 percent, while it would rise 2 percent for people in the lowest bracket. Corporate taxes would fall from 35 to 20 percent. President Trump has pledged that by doubling the standard deduction and boosting the child tax credit, it would offset raising the tax rate for those in the lowest bracket.

What income ranges those brackets would cover — and whether there will be another, higher tax bracket for the mega-rich — will be left to Congress.

The message got a mixed reception from the Penn Machine employees present. Purchase manager Gloria Mushinski asked Ryan about simplifying the tax code for workers who commute across state lines and said his promise to make it easier satisfied her.

“There’s more details, I’m sure, that will come out,” she said.

“They’re getting started,” added human resources manager Susan Watras, who had asked about what deductions would go away under the proposal. It calls for reducing the number of individual deductions, but offsetting that by raising the standard deduction for single people and married couples.

Machinist Michael Maguire said with so much talk about big-picture promises — such as cutting business taxes as a way to create jobs — he’s not sure what it will mean for people like him.

“We all like money back in our pockets, we love that. But there’s uncertainty in the long term,” he said. “How’s it going to affect my kids? How’s it going to affect me? There’s a lot of questions there.”

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