By Ken Berry
Want to know where the next major tax reform legislation is coming from? You might check on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. In a jointly written op-ed piece in the April 8 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said they'll ask the public for tax law proposals via social media. The idea is to encourage fair and equitable tax reform in an open forum.
"While we are from different political parties, we agree that America's tax code is broken", said the two high-ranking officials. "That is why we have been working together as the chairmen of Congress' two tax-writing committees to make it fairer for families and spark a more prosperous economy."
This seemingly "odd couple" has been meeting weekly to discuss comprehensive tax reform. They noted that over fifty committee hearings on tax reform have been held in recent years. The Ways and Means Committee also has released several drafts of reform proposals and formed working groups, while Senate Finance has been reviewing position papers and collecting feedback from other sources.
Now the public will get its chance to chime in. "In the coming weeks, we will give you the opportunity to provide your input as well", Baucus and Camp wrote in the the Wall Street Journal editorial. "No need to travel to Washington. Through the use of social media, we will enable everyone to participate directly. We are dedicated to writing bills in an open and transparent fashion. No cutting deals behind closed doors. You get a say, employers get a say, and our colleagues – your representatives and senators – will get a say."
The editorial followed close on the heels of an article appearing in the New York Times on April 7 claiming that many of Baucus' former staffers have moved to jobs where they're lobbying on behalf of corporate interests. But both committee chairmen vow they remain committed to closing individual and corporate tax loopholes in the tax code.
Baucus and Camp have cited three fundamental principles in tax reform proposals:
- Fairness. They say that individuals don't mind paying their fair share of taxes as long as the burden is shared. "Simplifying the code means regular families will be on a level playing field with those who can afford high-price tax advisers", they wrote.
- A level playing field for US employers. Although the current US corporate tax rate is the highest in the world, some of America's mega-corporations are paying zero tax under the current system of picking "winners and losers." They wrote",Tax reform must make US corporations more competitive in the global economy."
- Parity for both small businesses and large corporations. Baucus and Camp want to ensure that any tax reform plan helps small business owners create jobs and compete in the same way it can benefit large corporations.
Finally, these two influential members on opposing sides of the political spectrum acknowledge that skeptics will question the prospects for bipartisan tax reform. They know they're certain to face "some fierce headwinds." Yet, they're holding out hope for tax reform of the people, by the people, and for the people.