2008 presents a tremendous opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to shatter the mold and public expectations by working together to achieve bipartisan solutions on key issues. Nowhere is this more critical than in the area of tax reform. America has one of the highest corporate tax rates among industrialized nations and Secretary Paulson has repeatedly spoken of the need to eliminate unfair tax preferences in the code to allow for a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 30.5 percent or below. Reducing the corporate tax rate would help keep our companies competitive internationally, but it is only achievable if we view the elimination of unfair provisions as closing loopholes, rather than raising taxes.
We can also apply this principle to simplifying the tax code for individuals and families. The more loopholes we find, the lower we can drive our income tax rate and thereby create a tax code that works for working families. I have introduced a comprehensive tax reform proposal that would provide more than 90 million working families with a tax cut and lower corporate taxes to help keep our companies competitive. I would challenge President Bush to explain exactly which parts of my proposal he does not like. In view of his early campaign promises to simplify the tax code, why has he not presented a package to Congress during the seven years he has been in office?
As we look toward President Bush's final days in office, let us take a moment to look back on his legacy within areas under the Ways and Means Committee's jurisdiction:
On Social Security, we still have not prepared for the Baby-Boomer generation and the strain it will put on the system. In fact, President Bush has used his time in office to push an agenda of privatization, which would undermine and eventually replace the guaranteed benefits of Social Security. The American people recognized privatization as a non-starter and rejected it outright.
On Medicare, which faces a more immediate funding shortfall than Social Security, President Bush has chosen to pass the burden to the next administration like so many other issues, including the millions of Americans without access to affordable health insurance and the war in Iraq.
On trade, for the first six years of his Administration, the President used trade policy as a political tool to divide Democrats and Republicans, while failing to understand or confront the problems facing the American worker in the global economy. When Democrats won control of Congress in 2007, we vowed to stand up for American workers, farmers and businesses and establish a new American trade policy. We have advanced groundbreaking legislation to overhaul the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program so that we can better prepare our workers and communities to confront and conquer the challenges of globalization. The House has passed this critical legislation and I hope the Senate will soon follow suit.
On the question of America's bilateral trade negotiations, we have taken the first steps in ushering in a “New Deal” for international trade through the inclusion of international labor standards and stronger environmental provisions in the text of free trade agreements (FTA). Inclusion of these provisions led to strong bipartisan support for the US-Peru FTA, which passed Congress and was signed into law last year. However, each FTA must be judged on its own merits. Since President Bush has not decided to send the remaining FTAs to Congress for a vote, we will have to wait and see what decisions he makes in the coming months.
As we look to the rest of 2008, it is clear that Democrats and Republicans alike are campaigning for change. To this end, President Bush missed a wonderful opportunity to share with the candidates and the American people his view of the mistakes he has made with the war and the economy and offer guidance to the next president on how we can be a more successful, united America.