Breaking the status quo on the tax code

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In 1986, realizing that the tax code was archaic and an anvil on the economy, President Reagan, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, and bipartisan members of Congress, agreed on an overhaul that lowered the corporate tax rate and simplified the system, making the United States a leader in the international marketplace and easing the path for investment and innovation. The result was the one of the most robust periods of economic growth the country has ever enjoyed.

However, roughly a quarter-century later, we are experiencing slow growth. stubbornly high unemployment and competitor countries with a much lower corporate rate - it’s time for another overhaul.

This year, our leaders have a unique opportunity to build on this agreement, reverse slow economic fortunes and reform our tax code. Our trade partners have now surpassed us, lowering their corporate rates to boost their own competitiveness. The result is that America’s corporate tax rate is the highest in the world, leading U.S. companies to move headquarters and jobs overseas and incentivizing investment abroad. American companies – at 39 percent – cannot compete against foreign rivals who operate in low tax nations such as Sweden or Ireland, which have respective tax rates of 8.5 and 12.5 percent.
Instead of working to pass comprehensive reform, we have allowed carve-outs, exceptions and loopholes to become the status quo, clogging our tax code and slowing our economic growth.

Democrats and Republicans alike have the opportunity to make progress this year by bucking the status quo to create a fairer, more efficient tax code for the nation that will spur growth and generate an environment conducive to job creation. A bipartisan effort from Congress will not only show the American people they are serious about improving the economy, but will highlight to international businesses, investors and workers that the United States is open for business.

In 2012, Democratic and Republican candidates for national office campaigned on the promise of fixing Washington and changing the way government does business. There is no better way to honor that promise to their constituents than by supporting comprehensive tax reform that does away with our out-of-date tax code and makes it easier to start and run a business here in the United States. By lowering the corporate rate to a competitive level and by simplifying the system so that the tax code is no longer a myriad of impossible-to-follow carve-outs, our leaders can upend the usual Washington process.

The time for change is now. Our economy continues to struggle and millions of workers are either unemployed, underemployed or forced to work multiple jobs for too little wages. Our leaders have promised a new way of governance and comprehensive tax reform is the best way to forge a new path to international competitiveness, job creation and economic growth. Let’s break the status quo.

Kamarck and Pinkerton are co-chairmen of the RATE Coalition.