SHOWDOWN AT GUCCI GULCH: The Inside Story of America's Great Tax Overhaul by Jeffrey H. & Alan S. Murray Birnbaum

SHOWDOWN AT GUCCI GULCH: The Inside Story of America's Great Tax Overhaul

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Gucci Gulch, report the authors of this lively contemporary history, is a corridor in the Federal office building where expensively clad, well-shod lobbyists await legislative decisions that can cost or save corporate clients millions, even billions, of tax dollars. Here, minions of a wealth of special interests first came to real grief one early morning last May as the Senate Finance Committee unanimously endorsed a bill that became the Tax Reform Act (TRA) of 1986. Birnbaum and Murray, correspondents for the Wall Street Journal in Washington, D.C., covered the improbable story from start to finish. Their anecdotal account, which includes an abundance of perspectives on taxation since 1913 (when a constitutional amendment first permitted income levies), begins with a 1982 proposal from Sen. Bill Bradley (D, N.J.) and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D, Mo.) for a so-called Fair Tax Act. Before enactment, the TRA nearly came a cropper on literally dozens of occasions. Eventually, however, a bipartisan coalition--whose ranks encompassed such genuinely strange bedfellows as President Ronald Reagan and Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D, Ill.)--managed to produce a thorough overhaul of the patchwork Internal Revenue Code. The real surprise was a comprehensive measure that trod hard on the toes of the Republican Party's business constituents. Most of what happened, of course, is yesterday's news. The authors' achievement centers on their illuminating chronological version of how events unfolded in the consequential conflict. Particularly valuable is the narrative's savvy focus on the words, deeds, and motives of the lawmakers, staff aides, bureaucrats, political appointees, advocates of all stripes, and other parties to the debate as they maneuvered for advantage. Birnbaum and Murray decline to judge whether the TRA will prove a socioeconomic boon, in part because the jury is still out and reform appears to be a never-ending process. They do, though, provide a vivid briefing on a signal legislative feat and the democratic institutions through which it was engineered.

Pub Date: June 29th, 1987
Publisher: Random House