WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, in an address to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C., Sen. Mike Lee announced a tax reform plan that replaces today’s complex tax system with a new, simple structure that provides solutions for America’s ongoing opportunity crisis. The “Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act” he offers proposes to incentivize social mobility, promote middle-class economic security, and improves opportunity for all Americans.
Acknowledging this Constitution Day, Lee began his speech today with thoughts from those who he said are perhaps the two most important constitutionalists in American history: “The first, from James Madison, is that the ‘object of government,’ is ‘the happiness of the people;'” and “the second, from Abraham Lincoln, is that the role of government is: ‘… to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.’ Taken together,” Lee said, “these two insights offer an almost perfect distillation of what America – and the Republican Party, at its best – stand for: Equal opportunity, for all, to pursue happiness.”
The senator then focused his remarks on the new tax reform proposal he intends to introduce to the Senate. The following are excerpts of his speech, the full text of which follows by hyperlink.
Up and down American society – which used to be defined and driven by what Tocqueville called our ‘yearning desire to rise’ – we find a new and unnatural stagnancy. We find the underprivileged trapped in poverty, sometimes for generations. We find the middle class caught on a treadmill, running harder every year just to maintain the economic security and social cohesion that were once taken for granted. Meanwhile, at the top of our society, we find a political and economic elite that – having reached the highest rungs – has pulled up the ladder behind itself, denying others the chance even to climb …. All of this points to what really is an inequality crisis in America today – a crisis not of unequal wealth of income but unequal opportunity.
This inequality crisis – including government’s role in it and the millions of struggling families it is leaving behind – is the great social and economic challenge facing the United States today. It is also the great challenge facing the Republican Party. For it is our own deepest convictions about the pursuit of happiness and the very meaning of America that this opportunity crisis subverts.
This new agenda should ultimately address the ongoing problems of immobility at the bottom of our economy, insecurity within the middle class, and cronyist privilege at the top. But the first and most important piece of this ‘pursuit of happiness’ agenda should restore equal opportunity to the first and most important institution of them all; the institution that unites all Americans regardless of race, class, creed, or politics: the institution of the family… If there is any single group of people in the entire country whose equal opportunity to pursue happiness we should make sure to protect, it is our ultimate entrepreneurial and investor class: America’s moms and dads.
The ‘Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act’ is based on the traditional conservative tax reform principles of simplicity, efficiency, and fairness. It lowers rates, consolidates brackets, and eliminates deductions and loopholes. Economic conservatives have for decades supported fundamental tax reform that accomplishes these goals. And so have I. But the problem is, there’s another problem. It’s a hidden problem that even thoughtful, conservative proposals might accidentally make worse. That problem is what I call the Parent Tax Penalty.
Under the current system, all seniors are entitled to the same benefits, based on their total lifetime contributions. But parents are required to contribute to this system not once, but twice. First, when they pay their taxes, just like everyone else. And then again, by bearing the enormous economic costs of raising their children, who in time, of course, grow up to become the next generation of taxpayers. Under the current system, parents receive no additional benefits for having contributed or sacrificed hundreds of thousands of additional dollars raising their kids. This is the inequity my bill is designed to highlight and address.
As with any other plan, there are legitimate questions. But I submit that with this plan, the tougher the questions, the better the answers. This plan eliminates an unfair and dysfunctional double standard in the tax code. It provides substantial, immediate tax relief to middle class parents who today bear a disproportionate share of the tax burden. It equalizes various other biases in the tax code, and lowers tax rates to encourage new jobs and investment. It restores to the American people opportunities not only to form new businesses and non-profits, but new families as well. And it challenges the Republican Party to recognize that most Americans’ most important investments mature much more slowly than bonds.