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The Benefit and The Burden

The Benefit and The Burden

Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take

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. By tracing the history of our own tax system and assessing the way other countries have solved similar problems, Bruce Bartlett explores the surprising answers to all these issues, giving a sense of the tax code’s many benefits—and its inevitable burdens. From one of the most respected political and economic thinkers, advisers, and writers of our time, The Benefit and the Burden is a thoughtful and surprising argument for American tax reform.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451646252 | 
  • January 2013
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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

The tax code is like a garden. Without regular attention, it grows weeds that will soon overwhelm the plants and flowers. Unfortunately, no serious weeding had been done to the tax code since 1986. In the meantime, many new plants and flowers have been added without regard to the overall aesthetic of the garden. The result today is an overgrown mess. There is a desperate need to pull the weeds, cut away the brush, and rethink some of the plantings to restore order, beauty, and functionality to the garden.

At its core, the purpose of any tax system is to raise the revenue needed to pay the government’s bills. Ideally,... see more
Chapter 1

A Brief History of Federal Income Taxation

As every schoolchild knows, following the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation governed the United States from 1781 to 1789. But the government established by the Articles proved to have a fatal weakness in the area of taxation. The federal government depended on the states to provide it with revenue, and like all taxpayers, the states didn’t much enjoy paying taxes to Washington. The federal government soon had a financial crisis. It lacked the revenue to function adequately, and so a constitutional convention was assembled to write a new basic law... see more

About the Author

Bruce Bartlett
Photograph courtesy of the author.

Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlettis a columnist for the Economix blog of The New York Times, The Fiscal Times, and Tax Notes. Bartlett worked as staff director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House, and as deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush administration.

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