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The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  374 ratings  ·  44 reviews
A spirited and insightful examination of the need for American tax reform—arguably the most overdue political debate facing the nation—from one of the most legendary political thinkers, advisers, and writers of our time.

A thoughtful and surprising argument for American tax reform, arguably the most overdue political debate facing the nation, from one of the most respected
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 24th 2012 by Simon Schuster
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Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
A concise introduction to the current US tax system and the various proposals for tax reform. (Note that this is a public policy book, not a "how to" manual for taxes.) Explanations are rather spare and unelaborated; I had to re-read a few passages to get the gist of what he was saying. The author won't win any prizes for his prose, which is straightforward but dry, yet he writes with authority and is even-handed. He worked for Republican congressmen in the Reagan–Bush I era, but he has no affin ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform Why We Need It and What it Will Take by Bruce Bartlett

“The Benefit and The Burden” is a very solid, no-nonsense book that makes the compelling case for tax reform and what it will take to do so. In an even-handed, non-partisan manner Bruce Bartlett skillfully makes the US Tax System accessible to the masses. Bartlett's background in government economics and having worked on the staffs of Congressmen Ron Paul and Jack Kemp and as deputy assistant secretary
Adam Rainsdon
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall when you see a book which has Tax Reform on the cover most people would place the book back in the dusty shelf where it belongs, however after reading this book I have to admit it was worth taking it off that shelf and peering into those pages. I must admit as an accounting major it seemed interesting to me, but overall as a person seeking out the future of this government and country this book opened up my mind to the reality of taxes and why they are necessary to us as a whole nation. ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bartlett has the advantage in critiquing current tax policy of having been among those who truly believe in free-market capitalism, and who now see the false promises and fraud such policies deliver. Written in 2013, we've moved on from the middle of the Obama years, mostly for worse, but Bartlett does not pull his punches when it comes to the weaknesses of Obama's economic policies, drafted as they were by Wall Street financiers. Many of Bartlett's arguments and proposals echo those of progress ...more
Paul Hamilton
Feb 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Some things I liked about Bruce Bartlett's book about tax reform are as follows:

1. The writing is clipped, precise and unadorned. For a book about, of all things, taxes, this is a welcome decision and it works to have the book broken down into concise chapters that stick to a topic, cover the material and then move on. Bartlett doesn't waste time trying to over-explain everything, relying on the reading comprehension of the reader to draw the necessary conclusions.

2. Bartlett takes a refreshingl
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a surprisingly interesting book. While a little dry, it's easy to read and very straightforward, and Bartlett's scorn for both the Democrats and the Republicans of today is pretty entertaining. He especially hates Grover Norquist.

Bartlett does not espouse any particularly controversial views in this book, but he provides enough opinions to make the subject matter take on a little life. I think one of the common issues with subject overviews is that their authors try to write without bia
Bill Pritchard
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
With the amount of time I have spent in "establishments" over my years, it seems that one of the most commonly discussed (read argued) topics is Taxes and Taxation. The vast majority of the time my sense was that those speaking on the topic were not completely (or at times at all) informed as to the history of our taxation system and the challenges that we are currently facing. I counted myself as one who was not completely informed. So I turned to Bruce Bartlett - he of the New York Times Econo ...more
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Very glad to have read this book on the U.S. Tax system and options for tax reform. Bruce Bartlett, the author was an appointee under the Reagan Administration and also worked under George H. Bush (#1)

After giving an overview of basics about the tax system and how our tax system compares with other countries, including a description of U.S. corporation taxes and capital gains taxes and a whole chapter on the ineffective Bush tax cuts, the author makes a strong pitch for a consumption tax such as
Michael Austin
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2012
I thoroughly enjoyed Bartlett's The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward, which gave a solid introduction to Bartlett's views of Keynesianism, supply-side economics, and tax policy. That book had the virtue of being an apostate's manifesto--one of the architects of Reaganomics in the 1980s repudiated his former position and argued for a mix of tax increases and spending cuts in order to reduce the deficit and the national debt. It is an excellent book, and I hig ...more
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I want to say that it was a little simplified at points. However, having taken more than a few tax courses while in law school, I'm probably not the target audience for many of those parts. I also would have appreciated better citing. While there are end notes of a sort at the end of each chapter, they're more "further reading" than they are citations. I appreciate being guided to sources which may help me better understand the nuance of tax policy, I found myself sometimes frustrated by the ina ...more
Steve Allen
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An incredible read.. This book will enlighten and enrage you. You will know more about tax policy than most politicians by the time you finish this book.

The author worked on tax policy for both Reagan and Clinton and details 20+ chapters of specific ideas, concepts, and issues around many commonly heard tax/money issues. Each chapter ends with at least one entire page of "additional reading" and references. This is very detailed and an I would like to have every politician read this and pass a t
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up after Bruce Bartlett's interview on the Daily Show. I didn't know anything about him, but he seemed like a reasonable, knowledgeable guy. I only found out when I told my brother I was reading this that he was an adviser to Presidents Reagan and Bush I, which made me a little nervous, but I found the book to be a fairly even-handed, comprehensible book about tax policy. (There are hints of his politics, but he points out flaws in most people's pet theories, including his own.)

Bill P.
May 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I saw the author on Stewart and he was convincing enough in his five minutes to sell me a book. This analysis of the US and in some cases international tax systems is a little bit like a text book for the uninitiated, topics are simply stated but I still found myself having to read certain passages a second time. Readers could easily have differnt takeaways from this book, it certainly reinforced my opinion that the only way out of current perceived debt crisis is to end the Bush tax cuts when t ...more
The American Conservative
'In his new work, Bruce Bartlett—one of the original supply-side economists—makes a cogent case for restructuring our tax system. His premise is exactly right: “The goal of tax reform, which Republicans used to believe in, should be tax neutrality.” Given how high our debt levels are, any new system has to be revenue-neutral. But the right kind of reform, Bartlett maintains, should have “the lowest possible rates on the broadest possible base.” America would be better off with a system that emph ...more
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics, economics
Filled with great summarizations of data, but dry as a bone. The author's history and prognosis is colored by his preference for a national VAT tax. He'll get his VAT the same day the pet unicorn finally arrives. It reads at though Bartlett's anger at Bush II for failing to act as a fiscal conservative has morphed into bitterness toward the entire Republican Party. There may be 50 very accurate criticisms of individual politician's policy positions in this book, but perhaps 2 of those criticisms ...more
William Haubach
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Good read for what it was. Good background and history. Interesting to note that during the Eisenhower era the top 1% paid over 50% in taxes and people call that the golden era. Now that same top 1% pay way less and we are in such a mess. Tax reform is needed but if you could get Washington or the state capital politicos to agree on how to get there you would be the greatest motivator ever. In this politically charged and devisive climate we are lucky if we get a non-binding resolution to wish e ...more
February Four
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Before reading this book, I didn't think that there was an alternative tax system available, because I'd thought of the VAT as a money machine, and no other tax systems were worth the effort of reform (IMHO). Now I see that the VAT is actually the way to go. Before you decry me as a VAT enthusiast, take note that I used to think the VAT was too much to pay (from exposure in Australia and Europe). However, the establishment of the VAT plus the abolishment of income tax might actually be what this ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent history of USA Federal tax policy and how a VAT might work here. I loved his line where he thinks the Republicans and Democrats should just exchange their complaints about a VAT because then they'd be consistent re. their tax policy views, and like VAT! (Republicans take the Democrats' objection and make it similar to the Bush tax cuts and other regressive taxes they support: "it's regressive" and Democrats take the Republicans' objection and make it similar to other revenue raisers th ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
It is amazing how little most of us understadn about the tax system and how governments are funded. I found this book to be at just the right level for me. It explained the basics, but it did not hesitate to get into some complicated concepts. I probably understood 85 - 90% of it. A little disheartening because there are some big hurdles to overcome to return to some semblence of fiscal sanity. The bright side is that a lot of solutions have been tried elsewhere, so we do not need to reinvent th ...more
Stan Lanier
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
While I cannot immediately agree with Mr. Bartlett's position, there is much of value in reading this book. First, Mr. Bartlett is able to write of complex, complicated matters in a way that is marked by clarity. This book is a great primer of the territory. Second, Mr. Bartlett clearly marks out what are his biases. This is a good place to start in dealing with an issue that is going to hit all of us in the US in our faces with the force of a jackhammer and much sooner than we care to think. ...more
Monte Lamb
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us-politics
This book is by an adviser to Jack Kemp and President Reagan. It is an excellent primer for anyone wishing to know how our tax system has developed, its strengths, and weaknesses. It also discusses the political problems associated with tax reform. It reaches some surprising conclusions while it presents the problems in a reasonable and fair-minded manner. It is easy to read and a quality book.
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I, surprisingly, really enjoyed this book. It's short, easy to read, and really informative. It helped me to understand a lot of things I sort of kinda knew (taxes help you buy houses, but how? tax credits and itimizations, etc). And it presented it all with limited jargon for all us non-economists. Made me want to study tax reform, although didn't make me very optimistic we'd fix the problems anytime soon. ...more
Aug 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
This is the second book by Bruce Bartlett that I have read (Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy is the other)and I find his approach to writing very effective. Chapters are short and focused and the writing is straightforward. He makes the point he wants to make and moves on.

As for this book, it's an excellent primer on the tax reform issue. I learned a lot. Recommended.
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
The book is slightly oversimplified in places, due to the broad scope of the book. Overall, however, I highly recommend the book for anyone who is interested in tax reform specifically or our country's fiscal health generally. Although the author tends to start from a right-of-center position, he pulls no punches against the right (GWB especially) and is very evenhanded in his critiques. ...more
Jerry Hilts
Feb 23, 2012 rated it liked it
I read this book because I saw a very informative and interesting interview with the author on The Daily Show. Although the topics the book covers are indeed interesting, the writing itself was much less so. Unless you're a big time economics or political policy wonk, you'll likely find large sections of this book a bit dry and academic. ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nfbookgroup
Who knew a book about the tax code could be interesting. Bartlett’s book explains the history, as well as exemptions, loopholes, deductions, how they came about, and what the repercussions are. He explains how taxes work in other countries. Bartlett advocates a consumption tax, but does not give much hope of that happening.
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
A sober view on issues of taxation and efficiency. You probably won't like it if you like making policy through the tax code rather than directly, but it should give everyone else a lot to think about (without being too technical). ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this. I'm not a tax scholar, and this is a layman's overview of the works of a lot of experts. The book is non-partisan, although the author makes very pointed recommendations for reforms that he believes need to happen. I learned quite a bit. ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I never thought I would say a book on tax reform is worth reading but this one is. Fact and data driven. I love the analysis and thought process. I really hope we can fix our tax issues soon even if it is with a VAT
Inconsistent- some parts written at an elementary level, other parts more sophisticated. A mishmash of topics.The best parts of the book - by far- are when he describes his experiences with the tax law development process.
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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
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“it is generally considered to be the best tax ever invented. It raises more revenue at less economic cost than any other tax. For this reason, many conservatives oppose it.” 0 likes
“It’s as if the concept of taxation as theft—rather than as a shared burden that all should contribute toward as the cost of maintaining a civil society—is now so widely shared that many people applaud those who have figured out how to game the system and pay less than their fair share rather than condemn them as social parasites who claim society’s benefits without paying for them.” 0 likes
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