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Chairman Smith Op-Ed: For America’s economy to work, we need a working-class agenda

February 09, 2023

By Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08)

The Hill

The past two years have been particularly tough for working families. The price of everyday goods and services has skyrocketed — rising 13.9 percent since President Biden took office — with gas prices up nearly 50 percent. The Federal Reserve has been forced to respond to President Biden’s failed economic policies by raising interest rates higher than the past 15 years combined, pushing home ownership out of reach for millions of families, while workers, farmers, and small businesses on the frontlines of our economy see real wages shrinking.

That is why under a House Republican majority, we will put the interests of working families first — much of that work will be under the purview of the House Ways and Means Committee where I am honored to be serving as chairman in the 118th Congress.

I understand the grim reality many families are living with today because I have lived it too. I grew up in a small Missouri town, the son of a mechanic. My mother took a job just to afford health insurance for our family, only to see her company ship jobs to Mexico. My experience taught me that the working class is the driving force of America’s economy, and therefore our economic policies — including our tax code, trade policies, and assistance programs — should prioritize the American worker.

At the House Ways and Means Committee, we will examine how best to accomplish that goal by taking the conversation outside the Washington echo chamber that has failed to deliver for the American people. We will visit and hear directly from the small businesses, farmers, and workers in their communities about how they are impacted by Washington’s policies. In fact, in our first hearing of the Ways and Means Committee this Congress, we traveled to Petersburg, W.Va. to hear the thoughts and concerns of Americans who are dealing with the painful reality of living and working in President Biden’s economy. That’s how we will advance a tax code that spurs investment, promotes fairness, puts more dollars in the pockets of working families, and creates jobs that allow more families to pursue the American Dream.

We know what success looks like. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — passed by the previous Republican majority — we achieved the lowest unemployment rate and lowest poverty rate in 50 years and built an economy that saw lower-wage workers experience 50 percent higher wage growth than high-income workers. That same tax code also brought in $4.9 trillion in revenues last year — the most ever; a fact that should put to bed any argument from Democrats that somehow Washington needs more tax dollars. Americans are counting on Congress to extend many of the law’s key provisions, like expanded expensing for employers, incentives for conducting research in the U.S., non-punitive tax treatment of farmers and small business owners who pass that family farm or business to their kids and grandkids, competitive treatment for small businesses, and a Child Tax Credit that promotes the benefits of work to families.

The pandemic made clear that our country is too reliant on unfriendly nations like China for critical items like medical supplies. Made in America policies will support our economy and protect our national security. China also must not be allowed to keep stealing intellectual property and innovations that are the engine of the modern economy. To enhance our energy, food, and health security, we need to re-shore supply chains while at the same time chipping away at our trade deficit by expanding access to foreign markets for American farmers and manufacturers. To ensure that our tax code is ultimately working to the benefit of America, we must examine where and why American corporations have chosen to shed their American identity in favor of their relationship with China while still expecting American taxpayers to shower them with tax benefits.

Instead of using the tax code to punish American energy, as President Biden has threatened to do, Congress should use the tax code to strengthen our domestic energy production and bring those jobs and investment back home where they belong.

With more than 70 federal welfare programs in existence today, we must make work a better deal for families than collecting a government check. Too often, welfare policies trap people in a cycle of dependency and poverty, paying them more to stay home than seek a job. When Democrats dismantled the Child Tax Credit work requirements as part of their American Rescue Plan Act, only 1.6 million Americans returned to the workforce in all of 2021. When the work requirement was restored, 1.7 million Americans returned to the workforce in just the first two months of 2022. Strengthening work requirements for able-bodied adults will help transition more people back into a labor force that still significantly lags behind the pre-COVID era.

Despite its terrible track record of customer service, targeting of conservatives, and politically-motivated leaks of taxpayer information, Democrats handed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $80 billion in their Inflation Reduction Act to hire 87,000 new agents to do more of the same. The IRS does not need a raise; it needs a reckoning. In the first week of our new majority, House Republicans voted to cancel that money. At the Ways and Means Committee, IRS activities will be the centerpiece of our oversight efforts. The days of the IRS being weaponized against Americans must come to an end. At the same time, we will not hesitate to go where the facts lead us when it comes to oversight of the Biden family’s tax and financial dealings and to what extent the family has benefited financially from President Biden’s political agenda.

Republicans are the party of the working class. At the House Ways & Means Committee, we will embrace an agenda that is always looking out for the American worker and their family, that disrupts Washington command and control, that delivers tax relief and higher paying jobs, and that protects those who work hard and play by the rules.