For the owners of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, the Republican tax cut means more money to invest in a bigger furnace and new machines.
For their 1,400 employees, it means a $1,000 bonus.
That’s why two Republican members of Congress used the company as a backdrop Thursday to trumpet the cuts.
“This is going to have a real effect on real people,” Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte told reporters. Rep. Richard Hudson of Concord said the cuts lifted a “wet blanket” from the economy.
Like GOP lawmakers around the country, Pittenger and Hudson are trying to sell the cuts, the biggest congressional achievement in the first year of the Trump administration.
Polls suggest that may not be easy.
Surveys have found many Americans skeptical of the cuts. One report last November found only about a third of people supported the $1.5 trillion Republican plan. This week, Raleigh’s left-leaning Public Policy Polling released a survey that shows 57 percent of North Carolinians believe the law disproportionately benefits corporations and the wealthy.
But a New York Time poll last week found that the number of people who approve of the tax cuts, though still lower than those who disapprove, has risen.
Ahead of mid-term elections that historically favor the party out of power, that’s good news for the congressional Republicans in power.
“Selling the benefits of one of the few major legislative accomplishments is critical for Republicans like Pittenger and Hudson,” said Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College. “Certainly Pittenger’s Republican primary challenge will depend on him being able to go back to his base and say, ‘I’ve been able to help accomplish major legislative action.’ ”
Republicans won’t be the only ones selling the new law. The Washington Post reported that political action committees and industry groups allied with the GOP plan to spend millions on advertising intended to sell the benefit of the tax cuts to the middle-class.
“It’s unbelievable what this does for the middle-class, for the average working family,” said Charlotte Pipe CEO Roddey Dowd. “It’s money in their pocket.”
Charlotte Pipe is not alone in crediting the tax cut for employee bonuses. American Airlines, the Bank of America, BB&T and Home Depot are among dozens of companies giving bonuses. Starbucks announced employee raises and stock grants.
Companies such as the Bank of America plan to pass on to shareholders the bulk of corporate savings from the new federal law.
Aside from bonuses, the tax cuts will mean incremental changes in take-home pay for most Americans. According to Politico, a person earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would see an additional $30 over a bi-weekly pay period.
Most of the individual tax savings will go to the richest Americans. Households earning $1 million or more will get 16.5 percent of the total benefit from the cuts, according to the Tax Policy Center.
“I think most average Americans think that this was a corporate welfare type of tax bill,” said Christian Cano, a Democrat running in Pittenger’s 9th District. “It’s sold as trickle-down economics. This has never worked.”
Democratic Rep. Alma Adams of Charlotte said it’s the rich, not the middle-class, who will see the biggest windfall from the law.
“My Republican colleagues continue to insist that hardworking Americans will see more money in their paychecks,” she said in a statement Thursday. “Yet they fail to mention the rising costs of health care, trillions in additional national debt, and impending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that this tax plan will cause.”
At least in the short run, the law will benefit most taxpayers, said Douglas Shackelford, dean of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
“On the surface, generally it’s good news for taxpayers whether you’re talking business or individuals or anyone else,” he said. “It’s going to juice the economy.”
Shackelford said because it increases the deficit, the long-term effect is less clear. “The real question is, five or 10 years from now will we be glad we did this or not? That’s a much more difficult question to answer.”
Andy Yates, a spokesman for Republican Mark Harris, the former Charlotte pastor challenging Pittenger in the May primary, said Harris likes the tax bill – but not Congress.
“It’s great that Congress has been able to accomplish one thing in the last year,” Yates said. “They can take a victory lap for the one thing they accomplished.”
Politically, polls have shown that voters favor Democrats in a “generic” ballot over Republicans. Bitzer said Republicans need the tax bill to give them a boost with President Donald Trump’s approval ratings at historical lows .
“The question is, can they ride it from here through the primaries and into November,” he said. “Mid-term elections have been a referendum on the president. So it will certainly be a challenging environment.”