Senate to companies: Fire Americans, get a tax cut — a big one

Senate to companies: Fire Americans, get a tax cut — a big one
© Greg Nash

Fire Americans, get a tax cut. Lower wages, get a tax cut. Reduce investment, get a tax cut. Move jobs overseas, get a tax cut.

Under the recently passed Senate tax bill, companies can fire Americans, lower wages, reduce investment, send more jobs overseas and their statutory tax rate will be cut nearly in half, from 35 percent to 20 percent.

ADVERTISEMENT
Even crazier, companies can bring their trillions of dollars of foreign earned profits to the U.S., fire Americans, pay lower wages, reduce investment, increase foreign outsourcing and have the tax rate on those foreign earned profits reduced from 35 percent to 12 percent or less.

 

When asked directly if he would place requirements on repatriated foreign profits, Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council said he would not. No wonder so many Americans are against this form of tax reform.

Increased hiring, increased wages, increased investment and reduced outsourcing were key justifications for the Senate’s recently passed bill that will load up Americans with additional debt; yet there are no requirements for a company to receive the tax cuts. What gives?

The No. 1 thing the American people need to know is that neither the Senate nor the House tax bills require companies to increase American hiring, wages, investment or reduce foreign outsourcing to receive a tax cut.

If the justification for adding more than a trillion dollars to the U.S. debt over a decade is more jobs and better wages, then it is simple: no job growth, no wage growth, no tax cuts.

How can we execute that? Simple: “Score” each company on three components to determine each company’s tax rate:

Component 1: Rather than cutting the corporate tax rate and hoping corporations increase hiring, base each company's tax rate on its rate of job creation. Companies that increase hiring would pay a lower tax rate, while companies that don’t won’t: no jobs, no tax cut.

This would create a real incentive to hire. If a company knows it will get a tax cut whether it hires more Americans or not, where is the incentive to hire?

It would also generate a greater return for each tax-cut dollar, as tax rates would only be cut when jobs are created. Finally, it would increase the tax cuts available for companies creating jobs, as tax cuts would no longer be siphoned off by companies reducing employment in America.

Component 2: Tie each company’s tax rate to its wage levels. Companies that pay higher wages relative to industry peers would pay a lower tax rate. That would create a wage race to the top as opposed to today’s race to the bottom. That would increase consumer purchasing power enabling greater consumption, which comprises 70 percent of GDP. Additionally, higher wages could reduce demands on welfare programs.

Component 3: Have companies maintaining a higher percentage of their employees in the U.S. pay a lower tax rate, while companies disproportionately reducing their American workforce pay a higher rate. This would most benefit small businesses, because small businesses would generally be expected to have a higher percentage of their workforce based in the U.S. Company offshoring decisions would also be impacted.

Companies already track who they are hiring and firing; they know what they are paying their employees; and they know where their employees are located. Implementation of these solutions would only need companies to share the information they already have.

Washington loves to score everything, except, it seems, individual company job creation and wage growth. In my trips to D.C., it became apparent that the concept of scoring individual company job and wage growth was a foreign concept.

One congressional staffer told me, “That just isn’t how members of Congress think.” This is odd considering that the whole justification for the expected increase in our national debt related to the tax cuts is job and wage growth.

The famed business consultant said it best, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Yet, we are trying to manage employment and wage growth through tax policy without measuring company employment and wage growth.

The recently passed Senate tax bill is sending a very clear message to companies: Fire Americans, get a tax cut. It’s time Americans sent a message to the Senate: “No jobs, No tax cuts.” They can start with the Twitter hashtag: #nojobsnotaxcuts.

Chris Macke is the founder of Solutionomics, a think tank focused on developing solutions and recommendations for a more efficient, merit-based corporate tax code. He has advised the U.S. Federal Reserve by providing market updates and implications of monetary policy changes on asset valuations and market distortions, and he's a contributor to the Fed Beige Book.