In the past four years, the United States has faced severe economic challenges, challenges that threaten our very way of life. From out-of-control spending and a downgrade of our debt to persistent trillion-dollar deficits and high unemployment, the status quo is unacceptable. I am committed to advancing policies that will allow the private sector to flourish and, consequently, for our national economy to recover.
Over the past four years, our national debt has increased by over $6 trillion. We have run $1 trillion dollar deficits for the last four consecutive years. Admiral Mike Mullen, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, "Debt is the biggest threat to U.S. national security." As a member of the House Budget Committee, I have supported legislation that seeks to get our long-term fiscal house in order by balancing the budget and working toward eventually eliminating the national debt. I supported the aims of the Budget Control Act, which I had hoped would have developed a solution to our long-term entitlement problems. Of the over $3.7 trillion in spending done by the federal government, about one-third was in discretionary programs, those that Congress and the president control. Without taking on the complicated task of reforming the other two-thirds of government spending, we will bankrupt this great nation.
I believe American families and small businesses are taxed too much. Furthermore, I believe the system through which we collect these taxes is overly burdensome, too complex, and fundamentally unfair in many respects. According to the National Taxpayers Union, the total compliance cost for filing federal income tax forms added up to $227.1 billion, or nearly 1.5% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011. Consequently, I am an advocate of fundamental and comprehensive tax reform. I have supported legislation that would drastically simplify the tax code, consolidate the six tax brackets into two, repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, and support economic growth while not raising taxes. By closing loopholes and lowering both individual and corporate tax rates, we can incentivize America's job creators to do just that.
Additionally, the Estate Tax, or "death tax," has made it very difficult for small business and farm owners to leave their legacy of hard work to their loved ones. After paying taxes throughout their life, it is unfair to tax property again upon a business owner's death. I am firmly committed to a full repeal of the Death Tax in order to keep family farms in the hands of the same families that have owned them for generations. If Congress fails to act, the Estate Tax will return to a top rate of 55% in 2013. It is vital that both sides of the aisle come together to prevent this heavy tax from burdening America's farmers again.
Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and the best way to end the recession we are currently experiencing and create private sector jobs is by creating an environment where small businesses can thrive. This means keeping taxes low and creating a fair and predictable regulatory environment. For more than 20 years, small business owners have listed health costs as their top concern. However, rather than help quell these concerns Congress has effectively crippled small business growth by levying new taxes and penalties in support of a massive new healthcare entitlement. This new healthcare law offers some subsidies for small businesses to pay for insurance, but unfortunately these credits would do little to help thwart rising healthcare costs. In other words, small businesses will have to pay more for health insurance than they do now.
Helping employers afford quality health care for their workers and their families would improve the quality of life and remove major obstacles to hiring additional workers. I will continue to support policies that would help small businesses provide health care to their employees through health savings accounts, Association Health Plans or other tax deductions for medical expenses.
Another important component of a thriving economy is trade. American products and services are among the best in the world and should compete freely in the world market. While unfair foreign trade practices inhibit our ability to compete, the ability to pursue new, free markets with more consumers allows businesses -- increasingly, small businesses -- to grow and expand, translating into more jobs for U.S. workers. I support trade policies that would increase our exports, especially those that affect Oklahoma, like agriculture and energy technology. Generally speaking, I will be supportive of future free trade agreements that strengthen our domestic economy and increase the ability of American citizens to move products into overseas markets.