Let's make the tax code fairer for the struggling middle class
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It’s no secret the middle class has been struggling. In the last fifty years, incomes have not kept up with the expenses real families face. The cost of living keeps going up, and countless hardworking Americans are struggling just to get by.

Economists from the University of Minnesota, the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and the federal government found that a 27-year-old man today is making 31 percent less than he would have made in 1969—and that he’s unlikely to make up the difference over his lifetime. That’s a disturbing trend, and one Congress must take steps to address.

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So as Congress turns its attention to tax reform, we must focus on helping the middle class prosper.

Congress has not made comprehensive changes to our tax code since 1986. A lot has happened in these last thirty years, and our tax policies haven’t always kept pace. We can and should focus on reforms to help us increase our competitiveness, spur our economy, and create good, stable and high-paying jobs. Those are the sort of policies that will help the middle class.

To do that, we must first make sure that any tax reform plan is paid for. It’s the height of irresponsibility to just cut taxes for the wealthiest among us—especially without making up the shortfall. Otherwise, if the government’s expenses stay the same but its revenue shrinks, it will have to start making the same hard choices Middle America faces: what expenses to cut back on or cut out. The outcome of those discussions will likely be bad for the middle class. 

Unpaid for tax cuts create serious revenue shortfalls. They force the government to borrow more and more money to keep pace, which can lead to less financing being available to entrepreneurs, mom and pop shops, and new startups. This is bad for American ingenuity and bad for our economy.

Let me be clear: tax reform is not simply tax cuts.

We can make our tax code fairer, more competitive, and more efficient, but it shouldn’t be done by saddling our kids with a ballooning national debt. Nor should Congress make promises it cannot keep.

Simply slashing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent is not going to help middle class families—especially when the beneficiaries are businesses that already pay little in taxes and keep shipping jobs overseas.

Instead, we should focus our attention on helping hardworking families. I’ve spoken with a number of my constituents trying to provide for their kids while also going back to school so they can land a promotion or expand their career. They could benefit from expanding access to the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

We should also look at policies that help put Americans back to work. We saw great success, for instance, with the Build American Bond program. Congress should revive this program to repair our crumbling roads and bridges while creating good jobs for Middle America. 

Tax reform is never easy. It requires honest, difficult conversations about what’s fair and what’s best for the people we represent. We cannot do that if we let ideology and partisan rhetoric divide us. One party alone should not make changes to a tax code that affects us all. All of our constituents deserve to be heard as we begin these discussions.

As a senior member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, I’m ready to work with Chairman Kevin BradyKevin BradyFive tax reform issues dividing Republicans Border-adjustment tax proposal at death’s door Mnuchin asks Congress for clean debt hike before August MORE (R-Texas) and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make our tax code fairer for middle class families. But make no mistake: Democrats will oppose any tax plan that only helps the rich get richer while forcing the middle class to carry even more of our country’s tax burden.

Thompson represents California’s 5th District and is a member of the Ways and Means Committee.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.