President Bush has laid out an ambitious legislative agenda for his second term, and Congress' challenge will be to tackle some of his major reform proposals in the new 109th Congress. The House Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member, will play a crucial role in the debate on these issues. Social Security reform, tax reform, and making President Bush's tax cuts permanent all fall under the jurisdiction of this committee.
Tax reform will be one of the hottest and most contentious tax issues in this coming Congress. The Ways and Means Committee in the House will be examining ways to make our tax code simpler and more equitable. With simplification the goal, the Committee will consider various proposals including a flat tax, a national sales tax, a value added tax (or VAT tax) just to name a few. Similarly, we will be looking to build on the successes of the last four years, including marginal rate reductions, capital gains rate reductions, and increasing the ability to contribute to pension plans and IRAs. Bottom line, my goal is to allow working families to keep more of their hard-earned money each year, and to allow them not some bureaucrat in Washington to make the decisions on where their money is spent.
Social Security reform is one of President Bush's highest priorities, and Congress will begin to debate this issue early on. Social Security is a sacred promise from the federal government to our seniors. As we work to keep the promise to today's seniors, it is important to preserve the program for future generations. When Social Security was first created, there were roughly 40 workers paying payroll tax for each Social Security recipient. Today, there are only three workers paying into the system for each beneficiary, and soon that number will be just two. President Bush is looking for ways to strengthen Social Security and avoid the system's collapse. His plan calls for giving younger workers a choice of whether they want to set up their own personal accounts in lieu of sending all of their Social Security taxes to the government. Under the plan, a portion of their Social Security taxes will be saved in the personal account, allowing these workers to begin to build up a secure nest egg for retirement. In the case where an individual does not spend the entire nest egg, that money will then pass on to that person's children.
While our challenge in Congress is to tackle these big issues, the masonry industry faces its own challenges. As a nation, we place a strong value on the importance of education from an early age, with the goal of developing and enriching the minds of our future leaders. All high school students should have the chance to learn about different careers including opportunities in the trades. Learning a trade can provide a lifetime of skills and rewarding opportunities for employment. As a nation, we should concern ourselves with the future of the building trades in this country, including developing a skilled workforce. Schools need the resources to ensure skilled instructors, proper educational materials and adequate training facilities. We must recognize the importance of vocational education to many youngsters in our communities.
We all face many new challenges in the near future. I will do all I can in Congress to fight for lower taxes, streamline our tax code, and preserve and strengthen Social Security. My goal is to continue to work for an environment in which individuals, as well as businesses, have the incentive to put their hard-earned capital at risk to create opportunities for our families and communities. I know the masonry industry will do its part to keep our economy moving and preserve the skills vital to your trade and valued by your customers.
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