Candidates converge: Hertel, Biden push tax cuts for the middle class


Democrats have launched their latest attempt to connect with middle- and working-class voters in the runup to the 2024 election — the ol’ tried-and-true tax cut.

On Monday, President Joe Biden released a plan to cut taxes for average Americans by $765 million over 10 years. Curtis Hertel Jr., the presumed Democratic nominee in mid-Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, pledged to make the same tax cut the cornerstone of his campaign.

If you forgot that Hertel, of East Lansing, was Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s legislative director when she expanded income tax exemptions for senior citizens and the state’s earned income tax credit, be assured that he’ll remind you again and again.

On working to make life more affordable for working families and seniors, Hertel said at a Monday press conference, “It’s what I did in Lansing and what I’ll do in Washington, D.C. ... We are going to make lowering the cost of being a Michigander, of succeeding and raising a family, a major part of this campaign.”

Two long-time allies, former Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart and Ken Barnes of the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, supported his pledge at the Meridian Senior Center event in Okemos.

Hertel wasn’t otherwise specific in his remarks or with reporters after the press conference. He talked about “working across the aisle to find common ground and find the best possible deal for Michigan.”

In the same breath, Hertel also mentioned that when expanding the earned income tax credit came up in the state Senate, his likely general election opponent, Tom Barrett, voted no.

Biden is talking about increasing the child tax credit by an average of $2,600 for lower-income families, bolstering the earned income tax and making permanent the tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act, which the White House estimates will save people an average of $800 a year in health insurance premiums.

In his State of the Union speech last week, the president discussed creating a 25 percent minimum tax on billionaires and raising the corporate minimum tax to “at least 21 percent.” He also proposed a two-year tax credit of $400 a month to encourage people to buy homes.

Like Biden, Hertel talked about lowering the costs of prescription drugs, but again, in vague terms. He promised more details would come.

Republicans have successfully used the tax cut mantra for years, but they certainly don’t have exclusive ownership of the issue.

Whitmer has shown that Democrats can just as easily send rebate checks to taxpayers as can Republicans. Biden’s not talking about sending checks to people, but the idea of giving average people a lift sells, especially at a time when Democrats needed to change the subject on a variety of issues.

Regardless of what Biden does on immigration, the more he talks about it, the more he loses. Abortion access may be an issue in other parts of the country, but Proposal 3 pretty much settled the matter in Michigan. Giving frozen embryos full personhood rights isn’t something you’re going to see the Michigan Supreme Court do, as happened in Alabama.

There’s nothing more personal to someone than personal finances. If Biden, Hertel and other Democrats can campaign on saving people money on prescription drugs or just the average essentials, they have the chance to connect.

While they’re at it, they could try picking up the mantra of being the party of fiscal responsibility. Republicans in Washington haven’t balanced a federal budget in the last half century, despite their constant saber-rattling about shutting down government.

Only Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton were able to do that.

Biden is talking about raising taxes on the rich to reduce deficits by nearly $3 trillion over 10 years. It’s not erasing the out-of-control $34.46 trillion debt, but it’s more of a plan than what the Republicans have cooked up.

It certainly couldn’t hurt to try, anyway.

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at


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