2014 is the time for tax reform

As our lawmakers head home for the holidays, they will likely return to constituencies that have been slow to recover from the deep recession of prior years. While the economy might be slowly on the mend, too many people are either unemployed or underemployed.

We know leaders are committed to economic growth and job creation. And we also know comprehensive tax reform remains the single best way to put the country on track to increasing investment in the United States and creating jobs. Tax reform that lowers the rate to an internationally competitive level and simplifies the code has been shown to create hundreds of thousands of jobs per year and make it easier for businesses to plan and invest.  That’s why other countries—including almost all of our fiercest economic competitors—have reduced their corporate tax rates.

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We have heard from Beltway naysayers that tax reform is dead, that significant legislation is impossible in the current climate and that elected officials will be too focused on their own reelections in 2014 to achieve real reform.

We understand that argument, but respectfully disagree. Our lawmakers are aware of how much we need comprehensive tax reform. President Obama has repeatedly talked about its importance. Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) has designated it a top priority for the House.

Congressional leaders are finalizing a budget deal that shows that they can, indeed, compromise on economic issues. The success of the first budget in years also shows that lawmakers finally got the message – the country is hungry for bipartisanship.

Notably, Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) agreed to leave tax breaks out of their agreement, precisely so that those breaks would be on the table for the future agreement that could be hammered out between Congress’ top tax-writers, Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.)—both solid supporters of tax reform.

The beginning of the second session of the 113th Congress is now open for work on comprehensive tax reform.

The country has been here before. Twenty-seven years ago our nation’s leaders understood that in order to compete in a changing and globalizing economy America needed to reform its tax code. A Republican president and a Democratic Congress came together to pass legislation that wasn’t ideologically perfect for either party, but was a successful compromise that put America’s economy first and helped set the stage for the economic success of the 1990’s. The 1986 Tax Reform Act suffered its own setbacks; critics declared it dead many times. However, in the end both parties came together, late in the 99th Congress, to pass legislation that helped the country’s economy grow and transform.

They knew in 1986 what we know now -- that America can’t afford to continue with its outdated and inefficient tax code. The public is looking to their elected officials in Washington to put aside their differences and work together on legislation that lowers the unemployment rate and creates opportunities in their communities, districts and states.

Undoubtedly, there will be hurdles and the process won’t be a short one. But, with the country looking for the parties to work together, the widespread desire for a simpler tax code and, of course, more jobs, comprehensive tax reform is the issue that can unite the parties and allow our leaders the opportunity to grow the economy.

It’s time to recommit to tax reform.

Pinkerton is a former White House domestic policy adviser to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Kamarck is a former White House adviser to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. They are co-chairs of the RATE Coalition.