ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump visited a manufacturing firm in Springfield, Mo., this afternoon to make the case that America needs a tax cut. It's the first of what's expected to be a series of road trips by the president to promote a GOP effort to overhaul the federal tax code.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're here today to launch our plans to bring back Main Street by reducing the crushing tax burden on our companies and on our workers.
SHAPIRO: The president offered no specifics about what a rewritten tax code should look like. The White House is leaving it to Congress to fill in the details. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from Springfield, Mo., where - I guess you're in the motorcade. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: The White House said the purpose of today's speech was to explain why the president wants a new tax code, not how he plans to go about it. So what was the argument that President Trump made?
HORSLEY: The president says the tax code is too complex and that tax rates are too high. And that is impeding America's economic growth. He often talks about the U.S. having one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. And even though there are a lot of tax loopholes and other breaks that let companies reduce their actual tax bill, Trump says taxes are putting American companies at a competitive disadvantage.
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TRUMP: We have gone from a tax rate that is lower than our economic competitors to one that is more than 60 percent higher. We have totally surrendered our competitive edge to other countries. We have totally surrendered. We're not surrendering anymore.
HORSLEY: Trump also took aim at Missouri's Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, saying she has to vote to cut the tax rates or, he told the people gathered at the factory here, they have to vote her out of office.
SHAPIRO: Scott, during the campaign, Trump called for deep cuts in both the corporate tax rate and individual taxes. Is that still the direction the administration is pointing in?
HORSLEY: It's still the direction, Ari, but we're not seeing any real concrete numbers. The president talked today about still wanting to see a corporate tax rate as low as 15 percent, but we're not seeing anything definite. Remember; during the campaign, Trump talked about delivering a tax cut for middle-class Americans. But when independent analysts look at the plan he rolled out, they found most of the savings would have gone to those at the top of the income ladder. Now, we'll see if that changes as Congress puts together the specifics of this tax plan.
Administration officials have been meeting with top GOP lawmakers for months now. But so far they haven't produced an actual blueprint for the overhaul. We've just seen a two-page statement that talks about general tax cuts and closing unspecified tax loopholes.
SHAPIRO: Administration officials have said this tax overhaul is the president's No. 1 priority. So what should we expect to see this fall?
HORSLEY: Expect to see more speeches around the country like this one. You know, there was a suggestion earlier this summer that Trump would be making this kind of trip weeks ago. And instead he spent most of August, you know, generating controversy with his Charlottesville remarks and openly feuding with Republican lawmakers. So some members of Congress have quietly questioned whether this president has the discipline to see a complicated tax overhaul through to completion. But the GOP is under political pressure to get something done here.
SHAPIRO: At the beginning of this event, the president also spoke about Texas, expressing sympathy in a way that he didn't when he visited Texas yesterday. Tell us more about what he said.
HORSLEY: He talked about the first responders who have been doing heroic work in Texas. He said they represent the best of America. And he pledged that the federal government will be with the people of Texas and Louisiana today, tomorrow and as long as it takes for them to rebuild from this terrible storm.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley speaking with us from Missouri, where he's traveling with the president. Thank you, Scott.
HORSLEY: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.