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Tax Reform Class of 1986: A reunion

As the country's tax code takes center stage politically, more people are taking a trip back to 1986, the year the most recent federal overhaul of the tax code passed. On Thursday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is holding a hearing about lessons from the Tax Reform Act of 1986, and he's reuniting some key figures from that time.

Witnesses will include former representatives Dick Gephardt and Bill Archer, who both served on the House Ways and Means Committee at the time; Buck Chapoton, former assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax policy under President Ronald Reagan; and Randall Weiss, who was an economist at the Joint Committee on Taxation between 1977 and 1989.

Two central figures from that time who won't be appearing: former senator Bill Bradley, who sponsored the bill, and the late Dan Rostenkowski, who was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committe.

So what are the chances for a repeat of 1986 in 2011? A few months ago, I posed this question to longtime tax lobbyist Ken Kies, who appears in the book "Showdown at Gucci Gulch" (the must-read classic on the Tax Reform Act of 1986). He said it's unlikely, given that the groundwork for the last wave of reform took years to lay and he hasn't seen a similar effort in the works. That bill also required massive cooperation between a Republican White House, a Democratic-controlled Congress and the business lobbying community. It was an unlikely feat then -- and perhaps even more unlikely now.

By Jia Lynn Yang  | September 20, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
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They need to start eliminating the crazy deductions one by one... a wholesale reform is impossible at this stage.

Posted by: staticvars | September 20, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Today's GOP would NEVER allow such a bill. The 1986 Act taxed ordinary income and capital gains equally. This is anathema to the GOP and its backers. The Club For Growth would spend whatever it takes to prevent this, as would the Chamber of Commerce and all the other GOP support groups.

Posted by: Garak | September 24, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

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