Washington needs teamwork to score a tax reform win for America

Washington needs teamwork to score a tax reform win for America
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“Keep your head up” is an important thing for hockey players to both remember and do. Hockey players can get into big trouble by looking down during the brief time they might control the puck, instead of looking up to see the broader and more important possibilities and dangers developing around them.

As they construct tax reform that could help significantly improve America’s anemic economic growth, policymakers in Washington should keep their heads up. Working as a team, President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have a once in a generation opportunity to move the tax reform puck all the way down the ice and then go “top shelf” against the goaltender for Team Status Quo.

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The current tax code tolerates less than 2 percent economic growth and stagnant wages for too many workers while costs for workers continue to climb. It enables nearly flat wage growth for too many hardworking Americans. It encourages American companies to park trillions of dollars overseas that should instead be brought home and used for investment and jobs in our country.

The current tax code places American employers at a competitive disadvantage with overseas counterparts who have lower business tax rates. It demands billions in hours, costs, stress and hassle from families and small businesses just to prepare and file their tax returns in an overly complicated system. It incentivizes use of loopholes or special exemptions only available to certain companies or individuals the current system favors.

Other than ensuring our nation’s security and defense remain strong, reforming and modernizing our tax code is one of the most important and positive actions policymakers can take in the foreseeable future. Looking up to see the big picture and the obvious benefits of a tax code that grows the economy and is more, simple, fair and beneficial for the middle class should inspire and propel the team forward.

The world is more connected than ever and much of business and commerce is now global. Governments in many other developed countries fully grasp that reality and have taken major steps, including lowering tax rates, to attract American employers, investment and technology. In addition, anemic economic growth in our country has cost us trillions in lost wage growth and business investment here. It is well past the time for policymakers to lift their heads up, see the opportunity, and go on economic offense.

Going on economic offense is especially important for modest income workers who are working harder than ever but have not been seeing much growth in their wages. While it is true that some wage growth has recently and thankfully occurred for previously unemployed or underemployed workers, consistent full-time workers have experienced very little real wage growth in recent years. Tax reform for both employers and individuals, done wisely, should help trigger long overdue wage increases for this backbone of the American workforce.

The value of tax simplification should also not be underestimated. Americans should be able to pay their taxes with much less hassle, complexity and stress. A tax code that is 75,000 pages long by itself indicates the tax code can’t be simple or fair for most individuals, families or small businesses. The idea of filing “taxes on a postcard” should be a central goal to tax reform and would represent real and meaningful progress towards a more simple and fair system.

If the defenders of the status quo refuse to look up and see their way to voting for a better tax system, they should not be surprised when a political “check” is leveled in next year’s elections. Regardless of party, politics or special interest, we all should lift our heads up to see how positive tax reform can be for our country and then work together to make sure this once in a generation opportunity results in a goal being scored for America’s families and businesses.

Tim Pawlenty was the 39th governor of Minnesota. He is now president and chief executive officer of the Financial Services Roundtable.