With an eye on the 2018 elections, Democrats in Congress are on a “listening tour” to hear the concerns of the working class.
The roundtable, called “Make it in America,” is named after Democrats’ 2010 agenda that aimed to strengthen the manufacturing sector following the recession.
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer says it’s also a jab at President Trump, who has repeated promises of “America-first” policies.
“This president has said he was going to do this but has not offered any solid policy options for the Congress, which has not been helpful,” Hoyer said.
Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos and Congressman Jimmy Panetta, of California, joined Hoyer for a discussion at the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.
The roundtable brought together leaders from local manufacturing companies, education and programs that offer training in construction and the trades. The conversation centered on addressing the education and skills gap, but it diverted to the GOP tax plan.
In one instance, the current Republican tax proposal came up when the owner of a local steel refinery expressed concerns about her company’s employees.
Margaret Hanley, president of A Lucas & Sons, says taking tax breaks away from someone who makes $30-50,000 is a large burden. Hanley suggested spending more on technical education, which could mean the difference between minimum wage and a reliable career.
Regional Superintendent of Schools Beth Crider Derry told the Democratic delegation that funding for college and career readiness is prohibitive for many students. In Peoria’s public schools, for instance, nearly 70 percent of students live in poverty.
Rep. Bustos says the Democrats are the ones in Washington fighting for the middle class and those trying to get there.
“That’s our starting point,” Bustos said. “It appears that the starting point of this Paul Ryan tax scam was making sure that those at the very, very top were going to get the biggest benefits.”