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Reagan and leadership - a tale of two tax bills

Steven Pearlstein opines on Tax Legislation Worthy Only of The Trash Heap, a bill that we discussed last month. Pearlstein contrasts the current legislation with one of the "greatest achievements" of President Reagan, the 1986 Tax Reform Act.

The goal of the landmark bill was to make the tax code simpler and fairer while boosting economic efficiency. Loopholes were closed, tax rates were reduced, and all sorts of distinctions were eliminated so that individuals and companies with the same income or profits were required to pay roughly the same tax.

Those principles, however, are violated on nearly every one of the 930 pages in the recently passed Senate tax bill and the 398-page draft released last week by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Bill Thomas (R-Calif.).

This year's bill is 398 pages of tax breaks for special interests. It's not too late to stop it, but doing so would require a courageous act of leadership. Pearlstein offers up a fanciful suggestion:

This may well be the worst piece of tax legislation to come along since 1986. If Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) wanted to steal the Reagan mantle, he would make plans now to return to Washington from the campaign trail and, Jimmy Stewart-like, lead a protracted Senate filibuster of the final bill. From his final resting place, the Gipper would be cheering him on.

I would too, but that would be completely out of character for Kerry. Nor, given the 94-5 vote that passed the bill, does a Bush veto seem in the cards. The country misses Reagan's vision, purpose, and leadership. Rather badly, I think.