Tax reform, trade pacts mean bigger paychecks, more jobs

As families across the country prepare to tune into tonight’s State of the Union address by President Obama, American families are asking one of two questions: (1) why can’t we get ahead? And (2), for the more than 10 million unemployed, where are the jobs?

These are fair questions. Despite the president’s promises of what trillions of dollars in deficit spending would lead to, the U.S. economy is so weak that the percentage of Americans in the workforce is lower now than it was during the Carter administration. Clearly, too many American families are still struggling.

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We must focus on one thing this year — strengthening the economy. That means putting more money in the hands of hardworking families and creating jobs for the millions of Americans who are still searching. Critical to achieving these goals are two policies Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together to work on:

1. Making the tax code simpler and fairer, so that families and job creators keep and invest more of their hard-earned money.

2. Pursuing ambitious trade policies that create American jobs and open markets across the globe.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who has spent a weekend searching for all the paperwork needed just to file your taxes that today’s tax code is broken. There have been more than 4,400 changes over the last decade — nearly one every day. Its complexity has become a real drag on our economy. Add to that our high tax rates for job creators doing business at home and abroad and the reality that some parts of the code are woefully outdated, and it is no wonder that America is falling behind.

Our goal must be to make the tax code more efficient and effective by closing its loopholes. That way, we can lower tax rates for American families and get this economy growing again. There are three things we can do to fix our tax code:

1. Make the tax code simpler and fairer so every family can do its own taxes without the fear of being audited or wondering if someone else who can afford high-priced lawyers and accountants is getting a better deal.

2. Lower rates and modernize our tax code so that all businesses — from the small shops we see on Main Street to our biggest companies trying to compete around the globe — can expand, hire new workers and increase benefits and take-home pay for American workers.

3. Hold the tax code accountable to hardworking taxpayers by closing special-interest loopholes that only benefit a few favored groups.

The benefits of tax reform are clear. Analysis of the tax reform plan the House Ways and Means Committee has been working on shows that tax reform done right means greater economic growth, more money in the pockets of middle-class families and the kind of strong job creation that you see when companies have the resources to hire, invest and increase wages.

We can also create jobs and more economic growth in the United States by pursuing new opportunities in the global marketplace through free-trade agreements. Currently, the U.S. is negotiating agreements with 11 Asia-Pacific economies, 28 member countries of the European Union, 22 other countries for a trade in services agreement, and 159 members of the World Trade Organization.

What does this mean for the U.S.? Access to these markets gives us the ability to export American-made goods and services to nearly 1 billion consumers across the globe. That creates well-paying jobs at home.

The economic benefits from trade are real. In 2011, we advanced bipartisan trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Auto exports to Korea have increased 45 percent since the agreement went into force, and our agriculture exports to Colombia have increased more than 200 percent. Trade agreements are also proven job creators, with trade supporting more than 38 million jobs across America — and I am proud that more than 1 million of those jobs are in my home state of Michigan.

These examples of job growth underscore the economic benefits that ambitious trade agreements can provide. But, in order to unlock the benefits of future trade agreements, Congress must first enact the Trade Priorities Act (TPA), which is the process used to successfully negotiate these agreements. I recently introduced legislation that outlines the modernized objectives and directions the administration should adopt when negotiating agreements — before it presents anything to Congress for approval. The TPA is the only way we can successfully bring international trade negotiations to a close so we can unlock more job-creating opportunities for U.S. trade, and it is essential for the administration to join in making this a reality.

So, as the nation tunes into the State of the Union, there really is only one measuring stick to judge the president’s speech — will these policies really lead to bigger paychecks and more jobs? One thing is certain: tax reform and new trade agreements will.


Camp has represented Michigan congressional districts since 1991 and the state’s 4th Congressional District since 1993. He is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and sits on the Joint Committee on Taxation.