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John R.
Democrat RI

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  • Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Senator Jack Reed

    Posted on 2013-01-23

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    REED (for himself, Ms. Murkowski, Mr. Durbin, Ms. Collins, Mr. Udall of New Mexico, Mrs. Murray, Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Coons, Ms. Klobuchar, Ms. Stabenow, and Mr. Begich): S. 116. A bill to revise and extend provisions under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

    Mr. REED. Mr. President, I am pleased to be joined by Senators Murkowski, Durbin, Collins, Tom Udall, Murray, Lautenberg, Blumenthal, Coons, Klobuchar, and Stabenow in the introduction of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization.

    This legislation is named for the son of Senator Gordon Smith, our former colleague, who took his own life at the young age of 22. After this tragedy, Senator Smith rallied support from members across the aisle and in both chambers to prevent other children from doing the same with passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act in 2004. Since then, it has retained its bipartisan support among Members of Congress and over 40 member organizations of the Mental Health Liaison Group.

    [[Page S223]] However, the recent horrific mass shooting in Newtown, CT shows that more work must be done to address the mental and behavioral health of children and young adults before they hurt themselves and others. Indeed, what is so clear now from this terrible tragedy is that we have young people who desperately need help. Parents also need help in identifying early warning signs of mental illness and accessing the appropriate treatment before it is too late.

    The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act authorizes critical resources for schools, elementary schools through college where children and young adults spend most of their time, to be able to reach at risk youth. Currently, this law supports 40 States, 38 tribes and tribal organizations, and 85 colleges and universities in their efforts to address mental health and prevent suicides among their youth.

    The bill my colleagues and I are introducing today would increase the authorized grant level to States, tribes, and college campuses for the implementation of proven programs and initiatives designed to address mental illness and reduce youth suicide. It will enable more schools to offer critical services to students and provide greater flexibility in the use of funds, particularly on college campuses.

    Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults age 10 to 24, up from the third leading cause of death in this population just a few years ago, and results in 4,800 lives lost each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, the CDC reports that 157,000 young adults in this age group are treated for self-inflicted injuries annually, often as the result of a failed suicide attempt.

    We can play a role in helping these children and their families. I am pleased that President Obama and Vice President Biden recognized this and included in their Plan to Protect Our Children and Our Communities by Reducing Gun Violence a recommendation to increase support for young adults ages 16 to 25, a population with high rates of mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide that is unlikely to seek help. Indeed, passing the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization is one way we can better address the mental health needs of this population.

    My colleague, Chairman Harkin, will be holding a hearing on the status of the mental health system in our country tomorrow. I look forward to continuing to work with him and others to act on the President's recommendations to improve mental and behavioral health care services, particularly for children and young people. This should be something that we do automatically when it comes to the welfare of our children but is even more urgently required in the wake of the terrible recent tragedies in Connecticut and elsewhere.

    ______ By Mr. CHAMBLISS (for himself, Mr. Burr, Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Coburn, Mr. Cornyn, Mr. Moran, and Mr. Cruz): S. 122. A bill to promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States; to the Committee on Finance.

    Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise to speak today about our Tax Code as well as our economic future. There is a problem with our Tax Code, one that hits home with nearly all Americans; that is, its complexity. In the past few years I have met with hundreds of constituents who are worried about this issue. Individuals, small businesses, farms, and large corporations alike struggle with meeting their obligations to the IRS because of the complexity of our current Tax Code.

    Earlier this month the IRS Taxpayer Advocate revealed some startling figures in the Agency's annual report to Congress. It estimates that individuals and businesses spend 6.1 billion hours each year complying with the IRS tax filing requirements. The complexity of the Tax Code is so burdensome that 9 out of 10 taxpayers now pay a professional preparer or use often costly commercial software to assist in tax preparation.

    Then there is the problem with our corporate taxes. The United States has the highest marginal effective tax rate among the largest developed nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. According to recent studies by the Cato Institute, that rate for U.S. corporations is almost 36 percent. In fact, only Argentina, Chad, and Uzbekistan have higher tax rates than does the United States. While the U.S. corporate rates have remained high, other countries are lowering their rates. Sweden, for example, has become the latest country to announce that it will lower corporate tax rates, in part to help attract more foreign investment. Our corporate tax rates continue to be higher than they should, and we lose our competitive advantage to other nations in part because of that high tax rate.

    I want to talk about a way to fix both these problems. Since joining the Senate, I have introduced in each new Congress the Fair Tax Act. Today I am reintroducing this legislation because of my belief that the Fair Tax Act can fix the problems built into our current Tax Code. The fair tax will promote freedom and economic opportunity by eliminating our current archaic and inefficient Tax Code and replacing it with a simpler, fairer means of collecting tax revenue. It will repeal the individual income tax, the corporate income tax, capital gains taxes, all payroll taxes, self-employment taxes, and the estate and gift tax in lieu of a 23-percent tax on the final sale of goods and services. Elimination of these inefficient taxing mechanisms will not only bring about equality within our tax system, it will also bring about simplicity. It will provide tax relief for business-to-business transactions. These transactions, including those for used goods that have already been taxed, are not subject to the sales tax, so there would be no double taxation.

    Some of my colleagues have asked how the fair tax would affect our revenue on our entitlement programs. Social Security and Medicare benefits would remain untouched under the Fair Tax Act. There would be no financial reductions to either of these vital programs. Instead, the source of the trust fund revenue for these two programs would be replaced simply by the sales tax revenue instead of by payroll tax revenue.

    Another question I get is how the fair tax would affect impoverished Americans. Under the Fair Tax Act, every American would receive a monthly rebate check equal to the spending up to the Federal poverty level, according to Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. This rebate would ensure that no American pays taxes on the purchase of necessities.

    We have made nearly 5,000 changes to the Tax Code since 2001--I have supported some of them, and I have not supported others--all in the name of improvement and economic benefit. I believe we can do better than simply lowering our taxes. I know we can make a bigger impact on our economic future by ridding ourselves of a tax structure that is holding us back.

    Ronald Reagan once said: I believe we really can, however, say that God did give mankind virtually unlimited gifts to invent, produce and create. And for that reason alone, it would be wrong for governments to devise a tax structure or economic system that suppresses and denies those gifts.

    With that statement, I could not agree more.


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