Tax Reform is Washington’s Opportunity to Un-rig the Economy

There are 4,000 tax lobbyists in Washington, D.C. How many of them are working for you?

If you are like most Americans, the answer is none. Most people can’t afford well-paid tax lobbyists.

So while the lobbyists get their clients special favors, ordinary Missourians get the shaft – paying more of their hard-earned money in taxes than they should.  And Missouri pays a lot.  The federal government calculates more than 20 percent of our state’s economy goes to Washington, D.C. This means less money in our pockets to save, spend, or invest as we see fit.

This unfairness has Americans questioning the American Dream. According to an Election Day poll, 72 percent said that: “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.” And 54 percent said: “it is increasingly hard for someone like me to get ahead.”

It is hard to accept, but understandable.  Americans will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing, and housing combined. The result is ordinary Americans working harder than ever. They’re working overtime, part time jobs, and on weekends instead of spending time with their families. 

Besides taking too much, how does the tax code keep Americans down?  For starters, it is incredibly complex. In the three decades since the last major tax reform, the code has tripled in size, from about 26,000 pages to 74,000 by 2014. This adds up to 4 million words. As U.S. Rep Leonard Lance said, the tax code is longer than the Bible with none of the good news.

And because the tax code has grown into a monstrosity of words and numbers, Americans spend long hours every year filing out their tax returns. Some estimates peg this at 6 billion hours of taxpayer time and $195 billion in compliance costs a year. No surprise then that around 68 percent of unincorporated businesses and around half of all taxpayers rely on professional tax preparers for help.

It shouldn’t be this way. Thankfully, there is real momentum in Washington, D.C. to fix our broken tax code. President Trump is planning to travel across the country to make his pitch on why tax reform is needed, including a stop in Springfield this week.

The president will call for a more efficient and fair tax code that lets ordinary Americans keep more of what they work so hard to earn.  That probably sounds great to you, but for thousands of special interests benefiting from the current tax system at your expense it would be the end of their first class compartment on the gravy train – and they will do anything to avoid being treated like everyone else.

But the only way the president can fix the tax code is if the American people are fighting with him.

At a time when Congress agrees on little these days, tax reform has the ability to bring together lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to do something good for the American people. Just last week Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said: “I welcome President Trump to Missouri, and I’m looking forward to working with him to make bipartisan tax reform a reality.”

Missourians have a right to be skeptical (it is the “Show Me” state, after all).  It was just earlier this month that McCaskill sent a letter to the president with a list of conditions on tax reform – not exactly the actions of someone looking for a bipartisan solution.  But Missourians will soon know if McCaskill is serious about tax reform.

Fixing our broken tax code won’t be easy.  Special interests – including those 4,000 tax lobbyists – will fight tooth and nail to protect a status quo that favors a select few.  We can’t let them. The time has come to enact a simpler and fairer tax system that lets ordinary Americans keep more of what they earn.  Congress and the Trump administration should capitalize on this momentum to deliver for the American people.

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