Punishing the Energy Industry Isn't Tax Reform

Oil and gas companies could create thousands of jobs, if only the Obama administration would stop punishing them.

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Pete Sepp is executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union.

Now that Congress is back in session, President Obama is planning to ask lawmakers to approve tax policy changes to "reward companies that choose to do the right thing by bringing jobs home and investing in America."

It is certainly wise to develop a tax system that keeps the United States competitive in a global economy. If, for example, the president is signaling new support for a "repatriation window" to allow companies to bring back earnings parked abroad because of high corporate tax rates in America, there are several bipartisan (if not ideal) approaches to doing so. Research suggests that this would be a win-win situation for taxpayers. Even better, could this be a call upon Congress to undertake a badly-needed overhaul or replacement of the current corporate tax laws?

[Read the U.S. News debate: Is a Flat Tax a Good Idea?]

Though hope springs eternal, unfortunately this administration's track record has often spoken louder than the president's words. In fact, the administration has spent the past three years gunning for one of the few sectors creating jobs and attracting new investment: our own oil and gas industry. This has included proposing to take away tax provisions for oil and gas firms that are available to a wide variety of industries.

U.S. Labor Department data shows that since the recession started in December 2007, seasonally adjusted employment in the private sector has declined by more than 5.5 million (a 4.9 percent drop). Meanwhile, the traditional fuel sector has worked to add over 33,000 new jobs (a 22 percent growth). While much of the president's renewable "stimulus" funds have been going overseas, private investment in traditional sources like natural gas has been fueling economic growth right here in America.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Across-the-board tax reform, emphasizing lower rates, more equitable treatment of worldwide earnings, and a simplified base, could deliver tremendous benefits for all industries and their workers. Selective tax policy aimed at punishing a particular industry won't help the jobs picture. Time will soon tell if the president is taking a more productive stance or resorting to the same old political posture.

  • See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.
  • See a slide show of Mort Zuckerman's 5 Ways to Create More Jobs.
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