The Benefit and The Burden
Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take
By Bruce Bartlett
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781451646191, 288pp.)
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A thoughtful and surprising argument for American tax reform, arguably the most overdue political debate facing the nation, from one of the most respected political and economic thinkers, advisers, and writers of our time.
The United States Tax Code has undergone no serious reform since 1986. Since then, loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions have distorted its clarity, increased its inequity, and frustrated our ability to govern ourselves.
At its core, any tax system is in place to raise the revenue needed to pay the government’s bills. But where that revenue should come from raises crucial questions: Should our tax code be progressive, with the wealthier paying more than the poor, and if so, to what extent? Should we tax income or consumption or both? Of the various ideas proposed by economists and politicians—from tax increases to tax cuts, from a VAT to a Fair Tax—what will work and won’t? By tracing the history of our own tax system and by assessing the way other countries have solved similar problems, Bartlett explores the surprising answers to all of these questions, giving a sense of the tax code’s many benefits—and its inevitable burdens.
Tax reform will be a major issue debated in the years ahead. Growing budget deficits and the expiration of various tax cuts loom. Reform, once a philosophical dilemma, is turning into a practical crisis. By framing the various tax philosophies that dominate the debate, Bartlett explores the distributional, technical, and political advantages and costs of the various proposals and ideas that will come to dominate America’s political conversation in the years to come.
Bruce Bartlett is a columnist for the Economix blog of The New York Times, The Fiscal Times, and Tax Notes. Bartlett’s work is informed by many years in government, including service on the staffs of Congressmen Ron Paul and Jack Kemp and Senator Roger Jepsen, staff director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House, and deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush administration. Bartlett lives in Virginia.
"A lucid analysis... a provocative book... remarkably successful in interweaving the underlying economics of the US tax system with the political choices that have made it what it is."—Financial Times
"Today we’re living in a country deeply divided between winners and losers. Nowhere is that more evident than in our tax system—so distorted by loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions favoring the already rich and powerful that it no longer can raise the money needed to pay the government’s bills. Among the people who saw this crisis coming was the conservative economist Bruce Bartlett... The Benefit and the Burden is a layman’s guide through the jungle of a tax system that, thanks to rented politicians and anti-tax ideologues like Grover Norquist, enable the one percent to make off like bandits while our national debt soars sky-high."—Bill Moyers
“[Bartlett’s] analysis of tax burdens and policies in modern times is essential reading for anyone following the present debate about income inequality and taxation.”—Worth
"For a vivid picture on how evolving tax laws have wrecked America's fiscal standing, consult Bruce Bartlett's new book."—Froma Harrop, The Providence Journal
"A great introduction for anyone who doesn't really know much about the U.S. tax system and wants to learn the basics. It's clear, short, and a quick read."—Kevin Drum, Mother Jones
"If Obama wants to win this election, he needs to embrace radical tax reform. The shape and structure of sane reforms is already out there, as Bruce Bartlett explains."—Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast
"[Bartlett] writes beautifully and seems to have no trouble avoiding getting caught up in the many complexities of tax policy."—Len Burman, Forbes and Professor of Economics at Syracuse
"In a political system beset by ignorance and misinformation, delivering basic information to interested citizens is a worthy goal. And Bartlett does it very well."—Joseph J. Thorndike, Tax Notes
“[Bartlett’s] balanced, well-researched primer on America’s tax system... is a refreshing entree to a difficult subject. The book’s no-nonsense approach to tax policy proves surprisingly engaging.”—The Economist
"Bruce Bartlett has waded into the debate on tax policy with a thoughtful argument for the necessity of reform."—Tom Pauken, The American Conservative