The Corner

Reform the Tax System, but Don’t Forget to Cut Spending

With President Obama visiting Florida today, taxpayers are reminded of who the buck stops with when it comes to the higher taxes and out-of-control spending that threaten America’s future. This Tax Day also offers us an opportunity to have an important conversation about taxes and spending in America.

It’s clear the purpose of America’s tax system depends on the eye of the beholder. Like many Americans, I believe it should be a simpler and fairer system that promotes robust economic growth and job creation and is used to fund appropriate, limited government functions.

Unfortunately, too many in Washington today see it as their slush fund for the dramatic explosion of government spending we’ve seen since President Obama took office. This is fundamentally unfair and burdensome to taxpayers and anti-competitive for businesses and entrepreneurs. These job creators face job-stifling uncertainty about how high President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid will raise their taxes to fuel their growth of government.

Alarmingly, with their appetite for bigger government, the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team can’t even raise taxes fast enough to keep up with their spending, increasing our deficit and exploding our debt. It started with the stimulus and recently continued with the Obamacare law. What costly big-government mistake is next is anyone’s guess, but it threatens current and future generations of Americans with massive tax bills and diminished job prospects if we don’t get control of spending. Americans deserve better.

On the spending front, we need to start with a number of initiatives to cut spending, which puts an ever-higher debt burden on the backs of our children and grandchildren. I believe we must freeze non-defense and non-veterans discretionary spending at pre-Obama levels, end the permanent lease on life that discretionary-spending programs are given, ban earmarks, cut the number of government bureaucrats, give the president the line-item veto power, end the TARP program, and end wasteful stimulus spending.

On the tax front, we should start by extending the pro-growth Bush tax cuts. However, our tax code is fundamentally flawed and should be simplified. I support the fair tax. But at a minimum, we need to have a flat tax code in America that you can fill out on the back of a postcard and mail in every year.

We must also target certain taxes that are anti-prosperity. For example, taxes on capital gains and dividends discourage people from investing money in the economy, discourage entrepreneurship and discourage job creation. In order to promote these very types of positive activities, we should abolish capital-gains and dividends taxes.

We should also lower our corporate tax rate. The corporate tax rate today is one of the single greatest deterrents to investing in America, particularly in American manufacturing. There is no reason America’s corporate tax rate should be higher than Europe’s. At the very least, we should cut our 35 percent rate down to 25 percent.

Furthermore, the death tax is not only anti-competitive, it is immoral. The notion that your family somehow should lose the family business when you die is absolutely immoral and wrong, and it should be completely abolished.

Today, like every Tax Day, many Americans are struck with a sobering reminder of how fundamentally unfair and flawed our tax system is. This is the product of years of Washington deal-making to benefit special interests. But it also stems from the mentality that Washington needs to tax more of hard-working Americans’ money because politicians know best about how to spend it. The $800 billion stimulus alone proves how wrong Washington is and how much it costs us.

We need principled leaders in Washington who understand Americans are taxed enough already, that are higher taxes are a threat to existing jobs and new job creation, and that we need less government spending. As I’ve outlined, there is a conservative alternative based on proven ideas that seek to bring fiscal sanity back to our nation and, in doing so, will unleash a new generation of job creation and prosperity that our children and grandchildren deserve.

Marco Rubio is the senior U.S. senator from Florida. He is the acting chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.


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