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Questions from President Bartlet*. Will Tax Cuts Make America Great Again?

Actor Martin Sheen, 16 DEC 2002. Editorial credit: Featureflash Photo Agency/

My Fellow Americans,

It has been awhile but I thought I might jot some thoughts down about where we seem to be headed and just ask some questions about the destinations we appear to be seeking. My question about reforming taxes in America is simply this: How will America remain great if we yet again give the really rich more than those who have less or nothing?

But before my questions, some hard-learned wisdom about messing with taxes:

  • No proposer gets exactly what they want… the ultimate result is what 51% of 535 Congresspeople say. That’s a huge gauntlet to run to achieve anything.
  • Every tax change has negative unintended consequences for somebody which usually fall on the people in the middle, lower or bottom rung of income.
  • Big taxpayers always get the biggest, and best, relief and deductions.
  • Non-taxpayers get nothing.
  • Taxpayers in the middle to lower income levels get screwed every time.
  • Helping the middle class, at last, is always the covering fable.

1. Big tax cuts and tax breaks. Middle class taxpayers may get some relief but nowhere near what the millionaires and billionaires are going to get. In fact, it’s likely the tax cut plan that is currently talked about, if enacted this year, will create literally dozens of new billionaires and many times that number of new millionaires during the next four years. Remember, those who pay the most taxes get the biggest benefits. Pay little or nothing, get nothing.

2. Who gets the four trillion dollars? There is talk of providing a trillion-dollar rebate to all Americans. Just remember when George W. Bush became president, he engineered a trillion-dollar payment to America, which no one asked for. As usual the vast majority of the dollars went to those who paid the most taxes. Those who paid nothing got nothing. Those who paid something got almost nothing.

But the most important thing to remember is that shortly after the rebate, George W. Bush launched us into a major endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war created an enormous ongoing deficit which America is still paying for.

3. In 2015, according to nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 77.5 million American households paid no federal taxes. Many of these non-taxpayers are poor and fell out of the system but a huge number (perhaps even the majority) are wealthy people who, under America’s million-page exception filled tax code, can afford to maximize their deductions and minimize what they ultimately pay.

What seems fair to me, and may actually be a part of the current proposal, for individual taxpayers and families, is that all deductions be eliminated so that first, everybody pays, unless you have minimal or no income.  Adopt a similar system for businesses and business income. Simply eliminate hundreds of thousands of deductions and exceptions; use much simpler formulas to determine what profit is and taxbusinesses accordingly and fairly. Everybody pays fairly.

Businesses must earn tax breaks. Businesses who fail to create new jobs should pay a higher rate of taxes. Zero new jobs created and a business earns the highest tax rate. Perhaps there’s a graduated scale of jobs created where the tax rate does bottom out at 15%, for the most jobs created.

I have some more questions but they can wait for another time. What do you think?


Josiah Bartlet

President Josiah Edward “Jed” Bartlet*

*President Josiah Edward “Jed” Bartlet is a fictional character from the television series West Wing played by actor Martin Sheen. 

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