Now in his seventh term, Sen. Orrin Hatch has already secured his place among Utah’s — and the U.S. Senate’s — most accomplished senators. And while his distinguished career on Capitol Hill is already worthy of acclaim, his greatest success may still lay ahead. As the incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Hatch is in a position to do what has evaded Congress for nearly 30 years: finally reforming the U.S. tax code.
America’s tax code is broken and has been for some time. The U.S. has the highest average corporate tax rate in the world, 39.1 percent, and an extremely complex code. The tax system, which has not been updated since 1986, has become riddled with exemptions that make sense only to tax attorneys and accountants. Our broken tax code, combined with the actions of nearly every major country across the globe to make their tax systems more user-friendly and competitive, have limited U.S. job and economic growth and put our country at a significant competitive disadvantage in today’s global economy.
Tax reform can make a real difference in our economy. That’s why it is something that Congress and the White House should work together to fix, and why the new Congress represents the best opportunity in years to finally get it done. After all, President Obama and leading lawmakers from both parties have endorsed efforts to simplify the code, make it fairer and reduce America’s corporate tax rate to an internationally competitive level. Moreover, we have seen more momentum on tax reform over the last two years than over any period since the reforms enacted in 1986.
Yet, actually reforming the tax code has proven to be difficult — that is, actually getting the two sides to “yes.” Getting reform over the finish line requires leadership, sustained focus and the ability to work within one’s own party while simultaneously reaching across the aisle to the other party. Fortunately for the twin causes of tax reform and economic growth, Sen. Hatch has demonstrated these effective traits throughout his career, and he will need to do so again when this critical issue comes before his committee.
In a recent speech, Sen. Hatch outlined his criteria for tax reform, which happen to be the same as those adopted by President Reagan in 1986 and many of those supported by President Obama. He made clear that an overhaul of the tax code must result in economic growth, fairness and simplicity; principles shared by Republicans and Democrats alike.
In addition, Sen. Hatch has an able partner in Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, who has long expressed an enthusiasm and willingness to tackle today’s outdated code and took many steps toward reform in the last Congress. While fierce partisanship has been the hallmark of the last few years in Congress, voters want their representatives in Washington to work together.
We believe that Sens. Hatch and Wyden can put the discord aside and work together to pass tax reform. Yes, we believe that these two fine lawmakers, together with their colleagues in Congress, can show voters that Washington finally “gets it” and get something done.
Tax reform is the economy-boosting, job-creating measure that Congress and the administration can no longer afford to ignore. The time is right to fix our broken tax code. The time is right for Sen. Hatch to lead the Finance Committee to take this key step. The time is right for Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the Obama administration to work together to solve this big problem. After all, tackling the big issues are what our elected leaders are sent to Washington to do. The time is right to reform our broken tax code. We are optimistic that Sen. Hatch will rise to the occasion.
Elaine Kamarck and James P. Pinkerton are the bipartisan co-chairmen of the RATE Coalition, which advocates for tax reform. Kamarck was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton; Pinkerton a senior adviser to President Ronald Reagan.