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Camp Opening Statement: Hearing on the President’s Budget with Secretary Lew

April 11, 2013

Mr. Secretary, the last time you testified before this committee it was “Mr. Director.”  So, please allow me to do publicly what I’ve already done privately, and that is to congratulate you on your new post.  As you are well aware, this Committee has broad jurisdiction and interacts with many departments and agencies – none more important than the Treasury Department.  As such, it is my sincere hope that we will be seeing a lot of each other, and, equally important, that our staffs will be working a lot together.  

On Monday, the front-page of the New York Times’ business section read, “Lew to Press for Growth in Europe.”  Mr. Secretary, I appreciate and share your concerns over the fate of the European economy, but I am first and foremost troubled by the growth – or lack thereof – of the American economy.  

The simple truth is far too many families are still struggling – they face higher food prices, higher gas prices and higher tuition prices for their children.  Meanwhile, many have had their hours reduced and their wages frozen.  There is no cure-all, but there are real, achievable policies that can help strengthen this economy and turn things around for American families – chief among those are fixing our broken, outdated and complex tax code and balancing our budget.

I’m sure you’ll hear from Mr. Ryan, and others, on the need to balance the budget – which the Administration’s budget never does – so, I will focus today on the tax code.

America’s tax code is broken and I’m committed to working with anyone—Republican or Democrat—to fix it.  That’s why I was encouraged that the President put forward a plan to tackle a few of the challenges facing our tax code.  But the simple truth is that the President’s proposal isn’t the real reform we need –and it doesn’t go nearly far enough to address the needs of all job creators.

The problem with our tax code isn’t how much money it makes for Washington.  In fact, our government is on track to double the amount of money it takes from hardworking taxpayers over the next ten years – proving the government has all the revenue it needs.  Instead, the problem with the tax code is that it costs American families too much time and too much money to comply with.  Mr. Secretary, you know the facts:

  • Americans spend over $160 billion each year trying to navigate through the complexities of the U.S. tax code.
  • It takes the average American taxpayer 13 hours to comply with the tax code – gathering receipts, reading the rules and filling out all the forms the IRS requires.
  • Much of this is due to the fact that in the past 10 years, there have been more than 4,400 changes to the U.S. tax code – more than one per day.

Instead of reversing that trend and trying to make the tax code work for the American people, this budget adds new levels of complexities and creates new credits and deductions.  Mr. Secretary, it is our job to make sense of this tax code and I hope you and the President will work with Congress to deliver real reform to the American people.

Our tax code needs to be genuinely user friendly. You shouldn’t have to pay a professional to figure out your taxes.  Yet, the code is so riddled with layer upon layer of complexity that nine out of 10 Americans don’t feel comfortable doing their own taxes – they are forced to either pay a professional or go buy commercial software.  American’s should have faith that their government is taxing them effectively and efficiently.  Instead, they fear the IRS and the potential of being audited.

Our tax code needs to be fairer.  At a time when American families are just trying to make ends meet, we shouldn’t be taking more of their money to bailout Washington’s inability to control spending.  Let’s put an end to the special interest loopholes and the handouts and use that revenue to create a simpler, fairer tax code that lower rates for all Americans.  

Mr. Secretary, Americans across this country are sick of Washington’s gridlock.  That is why I will work with you, the President, Republicans and Democrats, to simplify and fix this broken tax code.  This budget is a first step, but America can do better than what the President is proposing here.  It won’t be easy, but this Committee – Republicans and Democrats – are willing and ready to do the tough work our constituents sent us here to do.  

We don’t have to settle for the same old game of giving Washington more taxpayer money and calling it “reform.”  It has been 27 years since this town cleaned up the tax code.  It is time for us to do our job again.  Hardworking taxpayers deserve real solutions that make our tax code simpler and fairer for every American.  Let’s work together to accomplish that.