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Center for American Progress

: A Fair and Simple Tax Reform System for Our Future
Past Event

A Fair and Simple Tax Reform System for Our Future

A Progressive Approach to Tax Reform

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EST

A Fair and Simple Tax System for Our Future
A Progressive Approach to Tax Reform

January 31, 2005
Few issues will gain more public and political attention in coming years than tax reform — both fundamental reforms and incremental changes to our tax code. Through successive tax cuts that primarily benefited the very wealthiest, President Bush has already made the federal tax system more complicated and unfair, while starving the nation of revenues needed to meet our current and future challenges. On January 31, 2005, American Progress held a forum to release its comprehensive plan for progressive tax reform.

Video & Resources
• John D. Podesta: Video
• Robert M. Solow: Video
• John S. Irons: Slides
• Peter R. Orszag: Slides
• William G. Gale: Video
• Q&A Session: Video
• Full Event: 
• Transcript: Full text
• Report: Full text

Note: All video provided in Windows Media format.


“We need to talk about tax reform with the real world that we have, not the real world that we wish we were in. This [American Progress] plan does that. It’s practical. It’s well motivated. It’s internally consistent. They offer significant reforms. It’s not some crazy pie-in-the-sky idea and it’s not some endless laundry list of proposals, so I think it’s very much the right level for a reform plan to lead off the debate.

William G. Gale is a Senior Fellow and holds the Arjay and Frances Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy in the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. He is Deputy Director of the Economic Studies Program and Co-Director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. His areas of expertise include tax policy, budget and fiscal policy, and public and private saving behavior and pensions. Before joining Brookings, Gale was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of California at Los Angeles, and a Senior Staff Economist for the Council of Economic Advisers. He has also served as a consultant to the General Accounting Office and the World Bank. Gale is co-editor of Private Pensions and Public Policy (2004), Rethinking Estate and Gift Taxation (2001), Economic Effects of Fundamental Tax Reform (1996), and The Evolving Pension System: Trends, Effects, and Proposals for Reform (forthcoming), all published by Brookings. Gale is also author or co-author of numerous academic articles, contributes a regular column called “Tax Break,” which appears in Tax Notes magazine, and has published in a wide variety of popular media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post . Gale received his B.A. in economics from Duke University and his Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University. He also studied for a year as an undergraduate at the London School of Economics.


“We believe that the tax system ought to be based on three fundamental principles of fairness, simplicity, and opportunity and economic growth. These fundamental principles ought to guide any tax reform plan. Unfortunately, under the current system, our tax system has become unfair and overly complicated.”

John S. Irons, Ph.D., is the Associate Director for Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress, where he specializes in federal tax policy, federal budget issues including the annual budget and appropriations process, and broader macroeconomic policy. Prior to joining the Center, he was a Senior Economic Research and Policy Analyst and Staff Economist at OMB Watch, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting government accountability and citizen participation. Prior to coming to Washington D.C., Dr. Irons was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Amherst College. He has also worked for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and briefly for the Brookings Institution and the National Bureau of Economic Research. Dr. Irons has published in several economics journals and was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, as well as a Graduate Fellowship from the Harvard/MIT Research Training Group in Positive Political Economy. In addition, he has won several awards for his economics websites, including top 5 website awards from The Economist magazine and Forbes.com. He has served on the boards of nonprofit institutions, including the Coalition on Human Needs. He holds a B.A. with High Honors in economics from Swarthmore College, and a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


“The [American Progress] proposal highlights the need, in my opinion, to fundamentally rethink how we try to encourage private saving in the United States, and it therefore represents a very useful contribution both to the tax reform debate and to the debate that we seem to now be engaged in over retirement security in this country.”

Peter R. Orszag is the Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at The Brookings Institution and a Co-Director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. He is the co-author of Saving Social Security: A Balanced Approach. Dr. Orszag previously served as Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy at the White House and as Senior Economist and Senior Adviser on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. His current areas of research include fiscal and tax policy, Social Security, pensions, higher education, and homeland security. Dr. Orszag graduated summa cum laude in economics from Princeton University, and obtained a M.Sc. and a Ph.D. in economics from the London School of Economics, which he attended as a Marshall Scholar. He is the co-editor of American Economic Policy in the 1990s (MIT Press: 2002) and co-author of Protecting the American Homeland: A Preliminary Analysis (Brookings Institution Press: 2002). Dr. Orszag is also a member of the Center for American Progress’s Academic Advisory Committee.


“Can we have a tax system that honors the middle class, that renews the American dream? Yes, we can … We can choose to have that kind of tax system or we can continue the reckless policies that have failed our country and now threaten our country’s future.”

John Podesta is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress. Podesta served as Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton from October 1998 until January 2001, where he was responsible for directing, managing, and overseeing all policy development, daily operations, congressional relations, and staff activities of the White House. He coordinated the work of cabinet agencies with a particular emphasis on the development of federal budget and tax policy, and served in the President’s Cabinet and as a Principal on the National Security Council. From January 1993 to 1995, he was Assistant to the President, Staff Secretary and a Senior Policy Adviser on government information, privacy, telecommunications security and regulatory policy. Podesta is currently a Visiting Professor of Law on the faculty of the Georgetown University Law Center, a position he also held from January 1995 to 1997. Podesta has held a number of positions on Capitol Hill including: Counselor to Democratic Leader Senator Thomas A. Daschle (1995-1996); Chief Counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee (1987-1988); Chief Minority Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks; Security and Terrorism; and Regulatory Reform; and Counsel on the Majority Staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee (1979-1981). A Chicago native, Podesta worked as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Honors Program in the Land and Natural Resources Division (1976-1977), and as a Special Assistant to the Director of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency, (1978-1979). He has served as a member of the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States, and the United States Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. Podesta is a 1976 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, and a 1971 graduate of Knox College.


“It [the American Progress tax plan] will tax income from all sources equally and tax it progressively. It will end the increasing dependence of federal revenue on the regressive payroll tax by shifting some of the burden to general revenues, which are less regressive than the payroll tax. It will contribute to long-term growth and job creation in several ways.”

Robert M. Solow
is Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has been a professor of economics since 1949. He taught macroeconomics and other subjects to undergraduate and graduate students until January 1966. Professor Solow studied at Harvard and received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1987 for his theory of growth. For a number of years he served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and was Chairman of that Board for three years. He is past President of the American Economics Association and the Econometric Society, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and a former member of the National Science Board. He received the National Medal of Science in 2000. He has written articles and books on economic growth, macroeconomics, and the theory of unemployment, and occasional reviews in The New York Review of Books and The New Republic. Some of the books for which he is most noted include Capital Theory and the Rate of Return (1963); Growth Theory: an Exposition (1970); Made in America: Regaining the Productive Edge (with M. Dertouzos, R. Lester and the MIT Commission on Industrial Productivity, 1989); The Labor Market as a Social Institution (1990); and A Critical Essay on Modern Macroeconomic Theory (with Frank Hahn, 1995). He is currently Foundation Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, where he is participating in an extensive study of the sustainability of high employment.