Now that Donald Trump has been sworn into office, the Republicans will have control of the House, Senate and White House. There is an opportunity to change the trajectory of taxation, spending, regulation and healthcare. When George W. Bush took office in 2001 with a Republican Congress, there was the same opportunity. But, what happened was that spending increased from $2.36 trillion in 2001 to $3.16 trillion in 2008, a 34 percent increase. Congress also set a record for earmarks at $29 billion in 2006.
The American people are tired of Washington’s spending habits and the inability to get things done, but now there is a real chance for reform on some of the most important issues. The problems facing the nation must be tackled head on, and for President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, there are “No More Excuses” for not accomplishing long-overdue fiscal and policy reforms.
There is no denying that tax reform is way overdue and people are frustrated. And who can blame them, with a tax code that contains 2.4 million words (“War and Peace” has 587,000 words). Americans spend billions of hours and dollars complying with the tax code every year. The corporate tax rate of 39 percent makes the United States less competitive and is driving companies out of the country.
Speaker Ryan and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, released their Better Way for Tax Reform plan, which outlined a comprehensive plan to overhaul individual and corporate taxes. Trump talked about tax reform during and after the campaign. Tax reform can provide a needed boost to the economy while benefitting individuals and businesses if done the right way.
As the package continues to be crafted, key components are being finalized. Restoring and enhancing competitiveness must be a goal of tax reform so taxing imports through legally ambiguous provisions like the border adjustment tax could do serious long-term damage. Washington has the leadership and opportunity to finally get comprehensive tax reform done for the first time in more than 30 years.
Government spending is out of control. The federal government spends almost $7 million per minute. The deficit for fiscal year 2016 was $549 billion, up from $438 billion in 2015. Total debt accumulated has eclipsed $19 trillion. It is obvious that Congress and Trump need to address spending.
There are plenty of places to start to cut spending, including:
—Eliminating the $247 billion in wasteful, duplicative and inefficient spending as identified in Sen. James Lankford’s (R-Okla.) “Federal Fumbles” (waste book).
—Eliminating the $136 billion in improper payments as identified by the Government Accountability Office earlier this year.
—Eliminating the $125 billion in administrative waste in business operations uncovered at the Pentagon.
And, if there is still uncertainty about where to cut spending, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on December 8, 2016, titled, “Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2017 to 2026,” that details numerous ways to cut spending.
It’s time to end the bureaucratic chaos that federal agencies have been responsible for over the last several years. While many agencies have contributed to the chaos, there are a few that stand out: the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Communication Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The FDA has been terrible in the area of encouraging innovation, and there are inventors and entrepreneurs that are suffering because of the broken approval process. Instead of being a drag on innovation, the FDA can be a catalyst to bring new products to market.
Over the last eight years, the FCC used a heavy-handed approach on areas such as privacy, internet freedom and intellectual property. The FCC will be getting new leadership so there is an opportunity to roll back the FCC’s overzealous approach to regulation.
The EPA has been a disaster for the environment and for the economy. The EPA is hurting, not helping, when they continue to promulgate invasive and cumbersome regulations on the private sector. The worst example is the Clean Power Plan that set massive targets for carbon reduction, forcing states to comply leading to green energy schemes that have given way to taxpayer-backed nuclear bailouts like the ones in Illinois and New York.
Repealing Obamacare is central to what Washington needs to get right with the new president and Congress. The process has begun to repeal and replace the expensive and burdensome law, but there are still questions that remain. Congress should move toward a model based on choice and competition. Plus, new leadership from Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., as the designate for Health and Human Services secretary provides a greater opportunity for success.
There are optimistic signs that these issues will be addressed as the new leadership takes control in Washington. But, there are also signs of caution. As the president and Congress get to work, there are No More Excuses to not get the country’s fiscal house back in shape.