On April 1, when Japan lowered its corporate tax rate, this country’s 35 percent tax rate became the highest in the industrialized world. Because the U.S. tax code has so many loopholes or breaks, the effective rate for corporations averaged 27.7 percent between 2006 and 2009, according to a Pricewaterhouse-Coopers report, but even that is well above the average for comparable nations.

There actually are glimmers of bipartisan agreement in Washington that the United States needs to lower corporate tax rates and simplify a tax code that has grown so complex that American business spends billions of dollars trying to comply with its provisions — or to capitalize on the myriad breaks it contains.

Undoing this labyrinth and overcoming the objections of its many defenders will require cooperation and discipline across party lines, on both sides of Capitol Hill and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — traits that are in short supply these days. It will also require a huge investment of time. But it is an exercise that Congress and the White House can no longer avoid.

The sooner the heavy lifting begins — even if it probably won’t bear fruit until after this fall’s elections — the sooner American firms can shore up their competitive position in the world economy and create more jobs and wealth in this country.

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland (May 30)