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Journal Times editorial: Ryan in place to deliver tax code reform

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November 23, 2014 | comments

By the Journal Times Editorial Board

Now that the November midterms are over and the post-election promises of cooperation between Congress and the president have died aborning, it’s clear the winner will once again be gridlock.

The tooth-and-nail infighting will continue on a host of issues from the Keystone XL pipeline, the Affordable Care Act, immigration, climate change, a nuclear agreement with Iran, with several of those issues once again posing the possibility of a government shutdown.

Still, we find a sliver of hope, outside that gridlock box, for some meaningful legislation that could set the underpinnings for a brighter economic future for the country for years to come.

We speak, of course, of tax reform.

And we’re hopeful because we have a homegrown leader who has pledged to champion this cause: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

Ryan, whose 1st Congressional District includes Racine County, last week ascended to the position of chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a powerful post that shapes the nuts-and-bolts details of the nation’s economic policies. In an interview with The Journal Times, Ryan said the committee “really affects just the bread-and-butter issues facing the people of the 1st District.”

“It’s the critical committee in charge of the economy. My goal is to do everything I can to bring reforms, to get faster economic growth and produce a healthier economy and more jobs.”

Tax reform, Ryan said, is expected to be a big issue next year.

“Our businesses are being taxed at much higher rates than our foreign competitors and, as a result, we’re losing jobs and losing companies,” he said. “They’re literally relocating overseas or being taken over by foreign companies.”

Ryan’s thoughts were echoed in a recent commentary by Elaine Kamarck, a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, and James Pinkerton, a senior adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, who now co-chair the RATE Coalition, a group of companies advocating for tax reform.

In it, they say “Wisconsin has suffered more from most states from so-called tax inversions — that is, companies moving abroad for tax reasons. But it is really a national problem. America has the highest corporate tax rate in the world at 39.1 percent.”

That, they argue, has hurt our nation’s competitiveness and fueled corporate flight to other countries with less onerous taxes.

Kamarck and Pinkerton said last year “Wisconsin’s gross domestic product was $320 billion lower than it would have been with a more competitive tax code.”

“Here in the U.S., companies are being forced to spend more time and resources on tax legalities and compliance and less on their bottom lines. What’s more, companies with resources to hire tax accountants, lawyers and lobbyists can take advantage of the code while other businesses — small and large — suffer. And eventually, as we have seen, they simply decide to leave — or at least, they move their tax domiciles overseas.”

Simpler, fairer, flatter — and more competitive. That’s the challenge Ryan faces as head of the House Ways and Means Committee. We’re confident he’s ready for the job and we hope he gets bipartisan support in restructuring the nation’s tax code and resetting its economic underpinnings.


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