I’d like to begin today by first thanking our special guests for being with us today. It is an honor to be joined by James Baker – who served as Chief of Staff during President Reagan’s first term and went on to shepherd the 1986 tax reforms through the Administration as Treasury Secretary – and by former Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt – who, along with Sen. Bill Bradley, helped kick start the tax reform debate with their 1982 tax reform package.
As two of the key architects to the 1986 tax reform plan, you each bring a unique perspective to the debate that Congress has again embarked on – how to craft meaningful, comprehensive tax reform that strikes the necessary balance of ensuring government has the resources it needs to provide for critical functions, while also allowing the private sector – employers and families – the freedom to grow and thrive.
The ‘86 Act remains the basis of our system of taxation. But it is, in some sense, a shell of its former self.
In the intervening years, Members of Congress – from both sides of the aisle – have loaded the tax code with a dizzying array of credits, deductions, exclusions, and exemptions. While the merits of each of these changes can be debated, discussed and analyzed, the overall effect of those changes on the tax code itself is beyond question.
With nearly 4,500 changes in the last decade alone, the code is too complex. And, with Americans spending over 6 billion hours and over $160 billion annually to comply with the code, it is too costly and too burdensome.
Clearly, the time for comprehensive reform has come, and I am committed to finding a path forward.
I am under no illusion that the task before us will be easy. Nor can it be a partisan exercise. Instead, it will require the active participation of the American people, the Administration, and all Members of the House and Senate – beginning with the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees.
And, that is why we are here today. Sen. Baucus and I wanted to host this roundtable in order to engage in a results-driven dialogue about tax reform.
We hope that the roundtable format will allow for a more free flowing conversation than the standard hearing. Today, we will have brief remarks from the Chairmen and the Ranking Members of the respective committees, and then we will go straight the discussion.