Pence says he doesn’t buy argument that the rich don’t pay ‘fair share’ of taxes

By: - July 5, 2023 8:55 pm

Former Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra talk with meet-and-greet attendees at Wells Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars Wednesday. (Jay Waagmeester/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

LE MARS, Iowa — Former Vice President Mike Pence told Iowa voters Wednesday that he “doesn’t buy” the argument that the wealthiest Americans do not pay their fair share of taxes.

U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra and the Wells Visitor Center and Ice Cream Parlor hosted Pence and about 50 attendees at a meet-and-greet in Le Mars, and he later addressed a standing-room-only crowd in Sioux City. Pence was on the second day of a three-day trip to Iowa, after walking in a July 4 parade in Urbandale on Tuesday.

Pence addressed income taxes after one attendee asked about the ability of billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to avoid taxes, while everyday people are “stuck footing the bill.”

“There’s no question that the tax code today creates a lot of different carve-outs for people who can shelter funds, keep dollars away,” Pence said. “I’m somebody that, I don’t really buy into ‘the rich need to pay their fair share.’ When you look at the statistics of where we actually get our funding from the government, the top 10% of earners in this country pay about 90% of the money that goes into the federal treasury.”

The 25 richest Americans paid an effective federal income tax rate of 3.4% between 2014 and 2018, and some of the country’s wealthiest billionaires paid no federal income taxes in some years, Propublica reported in 2021. But Pence and others point to net taxes paid, such as a Tax Foundation study indicating that the wealthiest 1% of Americans paid more than 40% of total federal income taxes in 2018.

Pence said the first thing a Republican president should do in 2025 is to make the Trump-Pence tax cuts, set to expire in 2025, permanent.

“I’m not one of those people that buys into the Democrats’ message about fair share, because I guarantee you that Americans at the top of the income level carry the overwhelming burden for government costs in this country,” Pence said.

Eliminating, restaffing agencies

Pence, polling behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is making his way through Iowa, a state he said the nation owes gratitude to for shaping the nation’s leadership.

Pence has been in politics for years, but he said earlier this week he believes he is well-known, but not known well. Pence served in Congress for 12 years, as governor of Indiana for four and as vice president for four.

Mavis Luther of Merrill said she was familiar with Pence but she came to Wednesday’s event uncertain about supporting him in 2024.

Although she said it was too early to decide on a candidate, Luther was impressed after meeting with Pence in person and hearing more about him.

“I am more impressed after I heard him speak, shook his hand, I saw how he answered questions, very impressed,” Mavis said minutes after Pence finished addressing attendees at the Le Mars event.

Pence mentioned two federal departments he would address if elected president — one he would eliminate completely, the other he would completely restaff.

Luther asked Pence for his thoughts on the Department of Education. Pence replied by saying he would eliminate the federal Department of Education.

“If I’m president of the United States, we’re going to shut down the federal Department of Education and ship all that money back to the states,” Pence said. “Education is a state and local function.”

Pence disagrees with a federal Department of Education and believes that it is an overstep by the federal government. He pointed out that he was one of 33 Republican representatives to vote against the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

“I just don’t think that’s [the Department of Education] consistent with the interests of our kids or our families or the interests of limited government.”

Pence also addressed one member of the crowd’s concerns of a “two-tiered justice system.”

“I promise you, if I’m president of the United States, day one, we’re going to clean house at the Justice Department,” Pence said. “Not just the top people, we’re going to clean house, the secondary people. We are going to find men and women in this country of unimpeachable integrity who will support the rule of law and reaffirm the confidence of the American people.”

Trump talk

Orville Hames, a 69-year-old independent from Le Mars, said he hopes Pence wins the Republican nomination so he can vote for him.

Hames, who has voted for both Democrats and Republicans over the years, says he has a feeling about Pence that he hasn’t felt about a candidate in years.

“I don’t know how you really explain, it’s just a feeling you get about somebody. He’ll be good at it, I think,” Hames said.

Hames said he has not felt this way about a candidate since former President Ronald Reagan.

A two-time Trump voter, Hames said he appreciates Trump’s policy and agenda but does not like Trump’s mouth.

Attendees questioned Trump’s former counterpart about their relationship and how to move forward.

“I stood loyally by the president until my oath to the Constitution required me to step away,” Pence said, repeating a common line in his stump speech.

Pence told the audience multiple times how he feels about the party moving forward.

“I think we need new leadership fitted to these times, new leadership in the Republican Party, and certainly new leadership in the White House,” Pence said.

This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch, a sister site of the Nebraska Examiner in the States Newsroom network.

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Jay Waagemeester
Jay Waagemeester

Jay Waagemeester is an intern for the Iowa Capital Dispatch based in Ames, Iowa, and is currently a senior majoring in journalism and marketing at Iowa State University. He has interned at New Century Press and contributed to the Iowa State Daily.