A comprehensive overhaul of the United States tax system.
The American system of taxation has become so encumbered by gratuitous complication and inequity that tax reform is an issue that’s championed on both sides of the political aisle. In his debut, Fishman provides a method to fix a broken code in a way that avoids rewriting it in its entirety; it also generally lowers taxes and compels everyone, individuals and businesses alike, to pay their fair share. The principal feature of his proposal is the elimination of what he sees as a pernicious “structural defect”: the tax deduction. He sees it as not merely a mechanical faux pas, but as a mistake, noting that politicians are endlessly incentivized to create new ones each year to satisfy their supporters, mostly benefiting the wealthy. As affluent people and corporations repeatedly diminish their own obligations, he says, the middle and lower classes shoulder a disproportionate tax burden; additionally, the revenue the government needs for essential services plummets. The author doesn’t simply demonize corporations, however; the tax code, he says, has essentially punished them for profitability, encouraging them to seek out such lucrative loopholes. Fishman would eliminate all business taxes on net profits and replace them with a modest one on gross sales while also expanding the payroll tax to fund health care. He would also do away with personal income tax, similarly replacing it with a payroll tax based on gross annual income. He includes plans for a value-added tax, estate taxes, excise taxes, and others and furnishes an extended discussion on Social Security, health care spending, and national defense—all areas that he says could be more adequately funded by a more rational and fair approach to taxation. Overall, this brief but painstakingly researched proposal deserves to be part of the national conversation on tax reform. Fishman discusses highly technical concepts in largely quotidian prose and seems unencumbered by an ax-grinding political agenda. One defect of the work, though, is that it seems too dismissive of the political obstacles to fixing a system that’s politically afflicted in the first place. The book’s principal virtue is its cool-headed assessment of the facts combined with a genuine passion for equality.
A thoughtful, rigorous plan to make the tax code more morally and rationally defensible.