By Jake Weber
Sharing his behind-the-scenes assessment of how Congress can and may improve America's economic health, Congressman Dave Camp, '75, delivered the 2012 Aldrich Lecture in Law, Justice & Society on March 13. Students, faculty, staff, and a number of community members and trustees gathered in Towsley Hall to hear Camp's analysis of current issues based in part on his work on the Bowles-Simpson Commission and the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the "supercommittee").
Representing Michigan's fourth Congressional district and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Camp is centrally involved with national, economic, health care and social welfare policy. For the Aldrich Lecture, Camp focused on his current work endorsing tax reform, an activity he asserts is crucial to economic growth. "Tax code that's simpler and fairer … done the right way, will help grow our economy and get people back to work," Camp stated.
Even in the current climate of partisan politics, Camp says that tax reform is not a theoretical exercise. He compared today's climate to 1996, when President Clinton faced a Republican-controlled Congress. Nonetheless, Clinton eventually signed welfare-reform legislation, possibly "the most successful legislation of the past 20 years," said Camp. "Despite the recession in 2010, welfare cases dropped nationwide, and the employment rate for single mothers has remained higher than in 1996. ... By requiring work or training or education, we broke a cycle of welfare dependency. We did that with a divided government."
And after years, even decades, of neglect, Congress is showing greater interest in tax reform. Camp, a Republican, and Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota collaborated on the Simpson-Bowles Commission to develop a framework for tax code reform, which the committee adopted for the current budget. This reform seeks to close off loopholes in order to lower tax rates, a strategy that, according to Camp, gets the government away "from picking winners and losers [with tax credits]."
Tax reform, Camp notes, has been a hot topic for Republican presidential candidates, and that President Obama recently mentioned a framework for corporate tax reform. "[President Obama] wasn't even on the beach before, but now he's dipped a toe in the water on tax reform," Camp said. "We're now seeing both parties engaging this issue. I'm going to continue to work aggressively on it."
"It's a big challenge in an election year but big challenges can lead to big successes," Camp reflected. "We're going to try to set the tone for the debate and bring the president and the Senate along with us."