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[caption width="250" caption=" U.S. Rep Pat Tiberi speaks at the Council of Older Adults center Thursday afternoon as part of an event organized by the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce. (Gazette | Andrew Tobias) "][/caption]

ANDREW TOBIAS

Staff Writer

In a speech laying out Republican economic proposals for tax reform, U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Genoa Township) said a “dysfunctional” Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate holds the blame for a lack of action coming out of Washington.

Tiberi, appearing Thursday at an event arranged by the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke over the backdrop of a slideshow that concluded with a photo of former U.S. President and conservative icon Ronald Reagan.

“Things are pretty tough right now, and there’s a lot of angst and anger,” Tiberi said. “But I still believe we are the best country in the world.”

Without getting very specific, Tiberi said encouraging entrepreneurship and paying down the national debt and reducing spending through reforms to mandatory federal spending programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, is necessary to restore the United States to prosperity.

However, Tiberi spent most of his time addressing the complicated U.S. tax code, which he said is harming the country on the world stage.

Because of a melange of tax breaks and loopholes, 50 percent of all U.S. citizens don’t pay any income taxes, Tiberi said. And while the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates of the developed world, the amount companies actually pay widely varies.

General Electric, through tax breaks and accounting maneuvers, effectively paid 0 percent in corporate income taxes for 2010, which Tiberi said was “outrageous,” while Chevron paid 43 percent.

By simplifying the tax code, and decreasing the U.S. corporate income tax rate, the U.S. can be competitive with the rest of the industrialized world, and make it so companies can prioritize job creation, rather than finding tax loopholes, Tiberi said.

Ending tax breaks will also increase the amount of taxes the federal government actually collects.

“For me, it’s about writing a better tax code, not raising revenues. Revenues are not the problem. But we’ll also be able to raise revenues along the way,” Tiberi said.

Legislation to improve the U.S. economy, including proposals to initiate drilling for oil and natural gas off-shore and in the Gulf of Mexico, have passed through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. However, the bills are languishing in the Senate, where Democrats have a majority, Tiberi said.

That’s because Senate Democrats are laying low since a number of moderate Democrats in red states are up for re-election this November, Tiberi said.

“They don’t want to vote on any controversial issues,” he said.

Tiberi also fielded from the questions on wide-ranging topics, offering up both his assessment of sentiment among his colleagues in Congress and his own personal opinions. Asked about Republican proposals that peel back the federal income tax in favor of consumption-based taxes a la the sales tax — the “fair tax” and the “flat tax” — Tiberi said he liked both.

“Either are better than what we have right now. I like both of them to be honest,” Tiberi said.

Other topics included U.S. military intervention in Libya (“We cannot continue to be the world police”), proposals to eliminate U.S. foreign aid to Pakistan (“The fact is, if we spend less, China will spend more”) and the sometimes dubious claims on talk radio (“It’s hard for me to tell someone who just heard something on the radio from someone they respect that it was wrong.”

Tiberi good-naturedly dodged the question when an audience member asked him to issue an endorsement in the GOP presidential race. Tiberi made a joke about considering whether to endorse Delaware County Commissioner Dennis Stapleton (who, by the way, has not announced plans to run for president.)

Tiberi opened his speech by defending the vote earlier this month to increase the U.S. debt limit from criticism levied from the left and the right.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, proposed raising taxes along with spending cuts as a so-called “balanced approach” to reducing the U.S. deficit.

“That is a poll-tested, politically popular way to go. But it ignores the problem in Washington,” which is spending and not a lack of revenues, Tiberi said.

Tiberi said his office still gets letters from conservatives that think Congress should have allowed the U.S. to default on its debts. That would be a “black eye” to the country’s image, both in the eyes of the public and in investors, he said.

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