Competition is key to growing U.S. economy
By Jim DeMint
The Greenville News, Mar 9 - South Carolinians hear a lot of rhetoric from politicians about the need to put America first in order to create jobs. But when was the last time a politician took the time to explain what that meant in simple, commonsense terms?
The reality is no one in public service, Republican or Democrat, is motivated (genuinely or otherwise) by anything else besides wanting to act in the best interests of the American people. You'll never hear a politician talk about putting Canada first or France first, for instance.
Putting the best interests of the American people first is an obvious position that allows politicians to do something they love to do - talk about problems, without offering any specific solutions of their own. Too often, "putting America first" is a code phrase for fickle politicians who want to appeal to nervous workers by bashing trade, without having to admit that cutting exports would endanger the jobs of those same nervous workers.
Let me explain to you what I mean by putting America first.
I believe individual Americans, not the government, create jobs and grow our economy. Federal policy, therefore, should be aimed at putting the American taxpayer first and giving American taxpayers and businesses every competitive advantage possible.
Unfortunately, many of our laws do the opposite. The IRS tax code is the main culprit.
The federal tax code is the number one job killer in America. High rates and tax complexity are robbing Americans of their time and money, and driving jobs overseas.
For individuals, the complexity of the tax code is an enormous burden. The average American taxpayer devotes about 40 hours per year, the equivalent of one week of work or vacation, learning tax rules and filling out tax forms.
The most responsible solution for Congress is to throw out our tax code and start over. That is why I have introduced the Tax Reform Action Commission or TRAC Act, which would initiate a reform process similar to the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process. BRAC successfully reorganized our base structure by taking politics out of the process. In a similar fashion, the independent TRAC commission would develop a replacement plan and force a vote in Congress.
For businesses, our tax code is driving American companies and jobs overseas. For example, in 1960, America was home to 18 of the world's 20 largest corporations. By 1996, however, only eight of the world's 20 largest companies were based in America. We have the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world and some of the highest taxes on exports. Federal policy has made it 22 percent more expensive to do business in the United States than among our nine leading trading partners.
Testifying before Congress, John Loffredo, the chief tax counsel for Daimler-Chrysler Corporation, explained why his company became the German-based "DaimlerChrysler" instead of the American-based "Chrysler-Daimler."
"When it came to the choice of whether the new company should be a U.S. company or a German company," Loffredo said, "the U.S. tax system put Chrysler at a decisive disadvantage."
When politicians complain about trends like U.S. jobs moving overseas, they need to take an honest look at our code and propose real solutions, not empty rhetoric. Placing a moratorium on trade agreements, as some have suggested, would make our jobs less secure. South Carolina's export growth was the third-fastest in the nation last year, an achievement that would not have been possible without trade agreements.
The only way to create jobs is to make America the best place in the world to do business. We can hide behind a wall of protection or fight back with pro-growth policies that make American businesses more competitive. Some of those pro-growth policies include training students for the jobs of the future, making President Bush's tax cuts permanent, enacting fundamental tax reform and limiting frivolous lawsuits.
What politicians should remember when they talk about "putting America first" is that America is not an abstract concept but a living, breathing country full of free individuals who are trying to live the American dream for themselves and their families. Congress should be putting American taxpayers first because it is they, not the government, who make America work.