Friday, February 11, 2011

Ways and Means Chair Sometimes Most Powerful Person in US

It must be that the benefits and compensation worlds are standing still. I'm not inspired right now to write anything truly topical. But, what does the House Ways and Means Committee have to do with this topic anyway?

Well, I'll tell you. The US Constitution says that tax legislation has to start in the House of Representatives. The House rules say that the place where tax legislation will start is in the Ways and Means Committee and the Chair controls the docket. Convinced yet?

OK, then, think about all the pay and benefits that you get from your employer, or, if you are an employer, all the pay and benefits that you provide to your employees. Companies take tax deductions for virtually all of it. But, the amount and timing of those deductions is often a major influence in determining exactly how and how much you are paid or which benefits you receive and how. It seems like taxes shouldn't have much to do with your rewards package, but alas, taxes have everything to do with your rewards package.

What will happen if the US ever adopts a Fair Tax?  Well, for one thing, that would mean an end to the Ways and Means Committee and certainly eliminate one of the most highly-sought after positions on the hill.

If you look at the list of former (and current) Ways and Means Chairs, you'll see some names that you recognize: James Polk (became President), Millard Fillmore (became President), William McKinley (became President), Wilbur Mills (got involved with a stripper named Fanne Foxe), Dan Rostenkowski (convicted of mail fraud, but passed more legislation covering employee benefits than all other Ways and Means Chairs combined), and Charlie Rangel (censured by the House for failing to report income on his tax return of all things). There is no other House committee from which I could name 6 Chairs (actually I could name more from this one without using Google or Wikipedia).

The current Chair is a Republican from Michigan by the Name of Dave Camp. He replaced a Democrat from Michigan by the name of Sander Levin. That's two consecutive Michiganders or if you prefer, Michiganas, running this committee. By all appearance, he is not a particularly exciting man. Is this good or bad for the Human Resources world? I don't know. Frankly, Mr. Camp appears out of the current vocal Republican group clamoring for spending cuts.

From my way of thinking, this probably means that Social Security and Medicare reform will be slow (if at all) to happen during Mr. Camp's reign. I don't expect a major tax reform that many clamor for. And, since major benefits legislation always has tax implications, I don't expect much of that either. So, for 2011 and 2012, maybe we get to keep a lot of the status quo.

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