Bartlett's Not-So-Familiar Quotations

Bartlett's Not-So-Familiar Quotations

[Bruce] Bartlett has published a new book, The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform -- Why We Need It and What It Will Take. It's not a book for tax professionals, who will find much of it elementary. Rather, Bartlett is aiming for the average voter (or at least the average politically engaged voter, a much smaller audience). 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.

Consistent with its educational mission, the book is subdued. Anyone familiar with Bartlett's blogging may find him unusually restrained in this volume. At many points, the book seems like an exercise in understatement.

But it's not dull. In fact, it's filled with nuggets of analysis that anyone (even a jaded tax professional) will find valuable. Here's a quick selection.

On Hearings: After many years of observing the hearing process and having been staff director for a congressional committee, I still have no idea whether congressional testimony has any real impact on legislation.

On Treasury: If the Obama administration wants to have real tax reform, it will need to . . . put Treasury back in charge of tax policy

On the 16th Amendment: Contrary to popular belief, Congress was not prohibited from taxing incomes prior to the Sixteenth Amendment.

On a Flat Tax: Many people call any tax system with a single statutory tax rate a flat tax. While there may be some benefits to such a tax system, the benefits tend to be overrated.

On the FairTax: If the FairTax is a good idea, the VAT is a far better idea.


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