Federal tax overhaul is long overdue
Green Bay Press Gazette | Rep. Mike Gallagher
Before the debate over tax reform heats up in the coming weeks, it’s worth pausing for a second to ask: What is this all about?
Well, the last time the United States did major tax reform it was 1986. I was just two years old, but my family still talks about what a terrible year it was for the Packers. They kicked off the season with six straight losses and ended it with the third worst record in the NFL. Fans didn’t get to see a single win at Lambeau Field that year.
Since then, rosters have changed, the stadium has evolved, and the Packers have made it to the Super Bowl three times, winning twice.
Unlike Packers fans, U.S. taxpayers have not been so lucky. Over the last 31 years, the U.S. tax code has changed for the worse; it’s morphed into an outdated, unfair, and complicated behemoth that stifles growth for our local manufacturers and punishes working families.
Consider that the tax code has tripled in length, from 26,000 pages in 1986 to 70,000 in 2016. It has gotten so bad that the complexity of our tax code has itself become a kind of tax. An estimated nine out of 10 taxpayers have to use their own additional hard-earned money to hire a tax professional to wade through the code’s minutiae just to file their taxes.
The complexity of our tax code is also an all-too-visible barrier to entry that has created a hostile environment for small businesses. No wonder entrepreneurship — a building block of the “American Dream” — is at an all-time low. Our corporate tax rate — the highest in the world among industrialized nations — drives companies out of the U.S., taking with them good paying, middle class jobs.
Lowering the corporate tax rate and eliminating loopholes begins to level the playing field for small businesses to compete against large ones and U.S. businesses to compete against foreign companies. Without tax reform, local manufacturers will struggle to buy new equipment, invest more in workers’ wages, and generally survive in a highly competitive global economy.
I believe we can do better than that. In my opinion, Wisconsinites should be able to keep more of their hard-earned money. And Wisconsin’s small businesses should have a fair shot at growing their companies again, so the bulk of corporate tax reform should go to Main Street rather than big corporate America.
For example, I eat at a local hamburger shop in Green Bay on Sundays as part of my post-church, pre-Packers game ritual. The owner recently asked me, “When are you guys gonna get taxes done? We need it!” For him, a 10 percent tax cut would allow him to hire another cook, meaning he could finally cut back on his 50+ hour work weeks and focus on other aspects of the business.
At the end of the day, reforming the tax code is about empowering individuals and families to make choices on how they spend and invest their money, not laundering that money through special interests in Washington D.C. After all, the last thing people need more of in their lives is Washington, D.C.
So as the details of tax reform emerge in the coming weeks, I hope we can approach the debate with an open mind before retreating to our respective partisan corners. I may be new to Congress, but I’ve learned that while you never get a chance to vote on a perfect piece of legislation, you’ve got to keep fighting to fix problems and advance the ball down the field, however difficult that may be. In fact I’m reminded of my favorite Lombardi quote: Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
We’ve been chasing tax reform for too long, now it’s ours to catch.