The Bucket of Prosperity
By Rep. Kristi Noem
This statement from Winston Churchill is a very appropriate reminder as we approach April 15, Tax Day: “Can a people tax themselves into prosperity? Can a man stand in a bucket and lift himself up by the handle?” The answer is obvious, and yet, year after year, the Obama administration has advocated for economic policies that shift a greater burden onto the shoulders of hardworking taxpayers. That isn’t the right approach.
Today’s tax code is more than 70,000 pages, filled with mandates, loopholes, and policies that pick winners and losers. It’s complicated! As a result, the average taxpayer spends about 13 hours a year gathering all the receipts, reading all the rules, and filling out all the forms the IRS requires in order for us to file our taxes – and we need not be reminded that the President’s health care law only added additional paperwork to the pile. Once everything is gathered, altogether we spend over $160 billion and about 6 billion hours a year trying to get our taxes paid.
After all we go through to comply with an ever-increasingly convoluted tax code, the vast majority of Americans – more than 80 percent – feel as though these pages are rigged against them, benefiting those who can afford lawyers and accountants, rather than the average family.
While wealthy Americans may be doing fine, those families earning middle-class or low-income wages are much less likely to have received a raise in recent years. Meanwhile, the cost of food and other living expenses has gone up. Simply put, too many Americans remain on the sidelines. I believe one of the best things we can do to get folks back in the game is increase their take-home pay, and we can do so by lessening the amount Washington takes out of their pockets each month. That means tax reform.
Comprehensive tax reform will not be passed under the current administration. Rather, what we are aiming to do now is put a thoughtful, ready-to-pass proposal in place that can be finalized once a new administration occupies the White House next January. I currently serve on the committee tasked with simplifying the tax code and making it fairer for all – the House Ways and Means Committee’s Tax Policy Subcommittee. Our mission statement is straightforward: “Create jobs, grow the economy, and raise wages by reducing tax rates, removing special interest carve-outs, and making our broken tax code simpler and fairer.”
In principle, this means making the tax code easier to understand, fairer, and flatter. I’d like to see us reduce the number of pages within the tax code and cut down on the length of tax returns and IRS instructions that become so confusing for families this time of year. We also should be closing many of the loopholes that make the tax code so unfair.
Additionally, I’d like to remodel the tax code so it is fundamentally built to increase private-sector employment, wages, and your standard of living. Along these lines, businesses should have access to a fair and competitive tax rate that makes it easier to grow their companies – and their workforce – in our communities.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – we must not allow the tax system to be used to bail out Washington’s spending problem. We cannot increase the tax burden on any income group – doing so would be like, as Churchill said, asking a man to stand in a bucket and lift himself up by the handle. It just doesn’t work.