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As journalists like Nicholas Confessore and Jonathan Chait have recounted, conservatives seeking to shift America away from progressive income taxes and toward a wage tax have never pursued their goal directly because of its obvious regressivity. Instead, they have pursued their goals piecemeal. Right-wing lobbyists and strategists came up with a strategy known as "five easy pieces" for tax reform.
As this scorecard shows, a sympathetic President and conservative Congress have made substantial progress on that agenda.
The five pieces are 1) flatter marginal tax rates and lower rates for high-income taxpayers, 2) elimination of the tax on income from wealth, 3) elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), 4) allowing unlimited tax-free savings, and 5) allowing full expensing of business investments. Notably missing from the "five easy pieces" strategy is tax simplification and base broadening, two fundamental components of real reform.
There is a better approach. The following report assesses the progress already made on the "five easy pieces" strategy, examines the implications of the changes, looks at the prospects for additional tax changes, and outlines a better approach.
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John S. Irons, Ph.D. is the Director of Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress.
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