Dean C. Garfield photo
The Post-Election Prescription for Progress

What an amazing night for our Republic.  More than 119 million people cast their ballots in races from justice of the peace to President of the United States.  We stood in long lines – some for hours; we cast our ballots; and we shared a hope that tomorrow would be better than today.  Because, at the end of any election day, that’s the common bond among Americans.  No matter how we vote, we vote with the ideal that our leaders and our choices will help to move the nation to a brighter future.

The key question is whether that same ideal will guide our leaders as they shift from the partisan political races to the harder work of governing, and building bipartisan support for solutions to the challenges we face.  There is common ground.  There are core policies that both President Obama and Democratic and Republican Members of Congress have voiced agreement.  However, to date, policymakers have been distracted by the political season, and have not considered the right path forward to move from the rhetorical agreements to real-world initiatives and economic solutions. 

The need for policy solutions to reinvigorate a national economic revival is clear.  And, in truth, there won’t be much time for the dust to settle on this campaign season before our leaders need to focus on solutions to major challenges that impact our nation’s ability to fully recover economically and fiscally. 

Fiscal Challenges.  The fiscal health of our nation necessitates action, but to overcome the enormous debt and deficit challenges we find ourselves in requires an economy that is performing and growing vigorously. As Congress and the President consider various options to reduce deficits, we urge that they keep our nation on an innovation path that makes it possible for our economy to grow and our citizens to prosper.  Without question, reducing deficits is necessary for long-term U.S. prosperity; however, we should not gut those investments in R&D, education, and other scientific initiatives that provide the foundation for innovation and economic growth.

Tax Reform.  With individual tax rates set to increase automatically at the end of the year, both Members of Congress and the White House are focused on finding a way to prevent massive tax hikes from harming the U.S. economy while not exacerbating the nation’s medium- and long-term fiscal needs.  Likely tied to that discussion will be the fate of the so-called tax extenders – provisions like the R&D tax credit, which lapsed in December 2011 despite broad bipartisan support for its permanent extension.  The uncertainty about temporary tax extenders serves only to further contribute to a worrying outlook for U.S. businesses.  Companies need certainty to plan and compete, and the extension of the expiring pro-growth tax extenders would be a first step toward giving businesses greater confidence about their ability to plan their futures.  Many of these extenders are integral to America’s global innovation leadership and our companies’ ability to invest in new products and services, which also translate to new, good-paying, long-lasting jobs.  That’s why Congress and the White House should act on the extension package before the year is out.

Congressional action on tax extenders is an important first step toward comprehensive tax reform in 2013.  1986 marked the last major overhaul of the corporate tax code.  Then, our corporate rate was among the world’s lowest, attracting global investment to the U.S. economy.   But in the many years since, every developed country has lowered its corporate tax rate, and almost all have modernized their systems to keep pace in the global economy.  The U.S. tax system, however, has stayed frozen.  As a result, America now has the world’s highest business tax rate, holding back American companies and workers. 

Bipartisan efforts already are underway on a new approach.  Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp and Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus are working together on the best solution for the long-term strength of the U.S. economy.  We hope that their leadership and the openness of the President to a tax system that is simple, fair, creates jobs, and increases competitiveness will lead to a better approach for American companies and their employees. 

Immigration Reform.  Almost every pundit recapping the election has talked about the importance of immigration reform.  The tech sector believes that this is an essential step toward a stronger economic future.  Our policymakers need to come together on a plan to allow the world’s best and brightest minds to call America home.  During the next five years, 100,000 immigrants – many with advanced degrees – will leave the United States and take their innovative ideas and job-creating potential with them. Many of America’s leading global companies began as technology startups founded by immigrants, including companies like Google, Intel, and Qualcomm.  As part of any comprehensive immigration plan, the Congress and the President should agree on an approach to keep bright minds educated in America to develop innovative products and jobs here.  Such a move would incentivize more highly skilled workers to come to our shores to help drive innovation and technology growth.   

Throughout the fall campaign, we urged our presidential candidates to step forward with a national jobs and innovation strategy.  Such a plan could set the agenda for bipartisan work toward real solutions to America’s lingering economic malaise.  To be successful, the strategy must adopt an “all-of-the-above” approach to ensure lasting economic strength and good-paying, long-lasting American jobs.  And they can start with policies where there is common agreement – trade; education and workforce development; immigration reform; energy innovation and independence; tax reform.  We hope that this kind of a strategy will be job #1 for President Obama’s second term and the 113th Congress.

We offer our congratulations to those women and men who won their races last night.  We hope that they can be instilled by the same ideal of a brighter tomorrow that led their fellow citizens to place our trust in them.

Public Policy Tags: Tax Policy, Immigration