Restoring Economic Freedom
The United States once again did not make the list of the top ten freest economies in the world, according to the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom just released by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. In fact, our country tied its worst ever overall score this year.
Declining economic freedom cannot become the status quo for our great nation. The Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, is prioritizing efforts in the year ahead to restore economic freedom by increasing opportunity and lessening the heavy hand of government.
One of best ways to boost our economy is to fix our complicated, outdated, and unfair tax code to allow Americans to keep more of their own money. We know we have a problem when the tax code makes it easier for people to cheat than to comply. Each year, Americans spend more than six billion work hours on compliance. By reducing this burden, we can keep more resources in the private sector where they can be used more effectively to grow the economy.
With Speaker Paul Ryan at the helm of the House, we have a unique opportunity to advance the work he and Chairman Dave Camp started during their time as chairmen of the Ways and Means Committee to simplify the tax code. Under a new president, I am optimistic we can push this important effort across the finish line.
Another issue we must tackle is Social Security reform. In addition to my assignments on the Ways and Means Trade and Health Subcommittees, I have accepted a new role on the Social Security Subcommittee to work directly on efforts to ensure the program’s long-term solvency.
The Committee has advanced many strategies to close Social Security loopholes, simplify the rules, and save the program billions of dollars. Some of these solutions were included in the budget agreement which passed the House in October 2015. Due to numerous concerns over increased spending levels and the lack of reforms, I could not vote for the budget bill, but I was glad to see Social Security issues addressed. We will continue to work on more reforms in the coming months.
An important marker of economic freedom is the ability to sell our products abroad. We continue to pursue opportunities to open more markets to American producers and fight non-scientific trade barriers. Under the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act passed by Congress last year, we are able to engage in a more transparent review process on trade agreements.
As the Index of Economic Freedom rankings clearly show, other countries are not waiting for us. We need to engage in the global marketplace to keep from falling behind. At the same time, we must be attentive to the details to make sure agreements are in the best interest of American producers and consumers. Our Committee has jurisdiction over trade policy and will be carefully reviewing the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as developments in negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
This is only a small sampling of the issues on our Committee’s agenda. Others such as health care reform, welfare reform, and reducing government regulation are equally important to strengthening our economy and will also be part of our work this year.
As we take on these issues, I hope you will keep in touch with me to share your ideas and questions. We have significant work ahead, but I am encouraged by the opportunities before us and the commitment among our Committee members to restoring America’s economic freedom.