It’s no secret that Americans are worried about the economy. For months now, the economy has consumed Washington, most of the country and many other parts of the globe.
But as we search for answers to our nation’s economic woes, we’ve got to work together.
We should remember something President Kennedy once advised, “Let us not seek the Republican answer nor the Democratic answer – but the right answer.”
I couldn’t agree more. But I’m not sure we’ll be able to get the right answer unless we first ask the right questions – questions, like:
Is it right that a big business can declare billions of dollars in profits, and then pay no income tax ?
Is it right that a hedge-fund manager pays a lower tax rate than the person who cleans his office ?
Is it right that an oil company gets to write off $11 billion on its tax return because it polluted the Gulf of Mexico ?
I firmly believe the answer to all of these questions is “no.” We face an enormous debt – with much of the money we owe due to a lot of misconduct on Wall Street and decades of tax policies that favor the rich and not the rest of us. We’ve all seen too many years of giveaways and bailouts for big businesses that have done a disservice to our economy.
Teachers, first responders and other city and county workers did not cause the economic downturn and should not be scapegoats for the nation’s economic woes. The way I see it, the issue is about fundamental fairness. Treating people fairly is good for the economy, our democracy and is simply the right thing to do.
Reforming our tax code is one key element in helping us fairly balance our budget and promote growth. And by tax reform, I mean closing loopholes and ending special-interest tax breaks and corporate subsides. It’s just plain wrong to protect tax breaks for oil companies and reward businesses that ship jobs overseas.
I recently chaired a major congressional hearing on how tax reform can play a major role in reducing the deficit. What we found was if we eliminate tax breaks for favored special interests, we could increase Treasury revenues enough to reduce our nation’s deficit by as much as one-third – or, some of those revenues could also be used to buy down individual and corporate income-tax rates.
There also needs to be a concentrated effort to make Florida an inviting place for business development and to improve crumbling infrastructure such as roads, bridges and sewer plants. We have to put more money into research, development and education. These are all things we’ve got to do if we’re going to compete in a global economy.
If we want to get out of this economic mess, create jobs and protect jobs that already exist, we’ve got to tackle our economic problem from multiple sides. And, there’s no time to waste.
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