Harold Ford, Jr: A Tax and Energy Plan to Re-elect Obama

March 20th, 2012

The Wall Street Journal – Opinion
By Harold Ford, Jr.
March 20, 2012

President Obama’s successes are unappreciated and his accomplishments are being ignored. Unemployment is down, manufacturing is up, and the stock market has nearly doubled since March 2009.

He ended our combat mission in Iraq, helped bring about an end to Libyan tyrant Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, and took out Osama bin Laden.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama won’t get the credit he deserves unless he wins his next big contest. Given a still fragile recovery and rising gas prices, that won’t be easy.

The president kicked off the year with a number of strong initiatives including a plan to cut the corporate tax rate. It was a great start, but it doesn’t go far enough and it could end up costing many American companies like FedEx, Apple and Caterpillar even more money. That’s because his plan eliminates many tax deductions on foreign-based income these companies currently receive.

Instead, the president should consider joining virtually every other industrialized nation by moving to a territorial tax system, which would tax income in the country in which it was earned and eliminate the threat of double taxation. This would help U.S. companies compete overseas and bring their profits home.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama also has correctly pointed out that developing our nation’s oil and gas resources is an important part of an “all of the above” energy strategy. This begins with developing the oil off our shores and the shale gas that is trapped in rocks deep below the Earth’s surface. States like North Dakota and Pennsylvania are at the epicenter of the shale boom that has brought tremendous job growth to these areas.

But in New York, residents are missing out on shale’s potential as environmentalists tie regulators in knots and use half-truths and hyperbole to convince local officials to ban hydraulic fracturing. These actions only undermine efforts that would bring jobs to rural communities and fund critical local needs like police officers and education. The president should make the promise—and safety—of natural gas a pillar of his energy stump speech as he campaigns nationwide, highlighting for concerned citizens the critical role this fuel must play in our economic future.

The United States is the world leader in refining crude oil into usable products like diesel, gasoline and jet fuel. Last year we were even a net exporter of petroleum products. Our strength here is unmistakable—and it brings us to the inescapable political issue for the campaign season: gas prices.

The price of gasoline at the pump is most acutely influenced by the price of crude oil on the world market. Current external forces, including unrest in the Middle East and a weaker U.S. dollar, are causing crude to hover over $100 a barrel. Consequently, gasoline prices are up and at their highest level ever for this time of year. And high gasoline prices have the ability to stop our economic recovery in its tracks.

The president has announced that he will open more of U.S. federal land and offshore areas to oil exploration and development. This is an important step, but he needs to do more—specifically, he should reconsider his Keystone pipeline decision.

Despite several years of study and a favorable State Department analysis, the administration has rejected Keystone XL’s application for a construction permit. This pipeline could bring an additional 500,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to the U.S. Instead, the project is in limbo.

Mr. Obama should also work with our leading energy companies instead of fighting them. Domestic energy companies contribute to our economy, support millions of American jobs and retirement accounts, and some, like Exxon Mobil, are investing in the energy solutions of tomorrow like fuel from algae. Yet the president continues to use them as his rhetorical foil. Calling for higher taxes may bring applause at partisan political events. But it won’t lower energy prices.

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