By Naomi Jagoda - 12/24/15 02:49 PM EST
Treasury head: US economy better now than when Obama took office
The U.S. economy is in better shape now than it was when President Obama took office, Treasury Secretary Jack LewJack LewWyden seeks IRS info on firms linked to Panama Papers Treasury issues rules cracking down on offshore tax deals Overnight Finance: Jobless claims near record low | Cops bust IRS phone scam in India | Republican demands Iran sanctions docs MORE said Wednesday.
Seven years ago, the unemployment rate and deficits were higher, but "where we are now, we're seeing steady growth, we've seen enormous job creation over this period of time, we're seeing the unemployment rate around 5 percent, and we're seeing that growth in spite of the fact that there's a lot of headwinds from a slower global economy," he told Fox Business Network.
Lew said the U.S. still has challenges, such as income inequality and deficits. But he said the country is in a good position to tackle its domestic and international challenges. One issue the Treasury secretary said he would like to work on business tax reform.
"We have a broken business tax code, and I think that's something that we have recognized for years and proposed tax reform, and Republicans have recognized for years," he said.
"I hope we can sit down and work together in a bipartisan basis to deal with this."
He said the corporate tax code has so many loopholes that the statutory rate is among the highest in the world. As a result, companies are undertaking maneuvers such as "inversions," in which companies move their legal addresses overseas.
Lew stressed that while Treasury has put out guidance to slow the pace of inversions, only legislation can stop them.
Lew said that "people shouldn't panic about Social Security" because it's 75 percent funded under the worst scenarios.
But he added that Social Security was never intended to be people's sole source of retirement income. He encouraged people to look into Treasury's myRA retirement savings program.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has committed to considering legislation providing relief to Puerto Rico by March 31. Lew called for Puerto Rico's roughly $70 billion of debt to be restructured.
"Puerto Rico needs to sit down, it needs to work with all of the stakeholders to come up with a viable path forward so there can be an economic plan for the future," he said.