Bruce Bartlett

Foremost Speaker on Taxes and Politics

Tax reform: what we need, what'll happen,
and what it means for businesses and citizens.

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Biography

Bruce Bartlett is today's most experienced and eloquent speaker on taxes and tax reform — the central issue of American politics and economics. His newest book, The Benefit and The Burden , is a deep and urgent work exploring the tax crisis faced by the U.S. and the reforms needed to solve it. Bruce speaks on the role tax policy will play in coming elections and its impact on investment, jobs, and growth in the coming years.

Bruce represents an unusually non-partisan, historically informed economic view. In the 1970's and 80's, Supply Side economics represented the solution to America's economic ills; today, however, we face new problems that need new solutions. While many economists and both political parties remain locked in the disputes of those earlier decades, Bruce has moved forward — letting him connect with people of all political backgrounds about the real reforms our economy needs.

Mr. Bartlett worked in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Since then he has been an economic commentator for The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, The New York Times, and other major publications. His previous books include the best-selling Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy and The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward.

Books

The Benefit and The Burden

Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take

Bruce Bartlett

A thoughtful and surprising argument for American tax reform, arguably the most overdue political debate facing the nation, from one of the most respected political and economic thinkers, advisers, and writers of our time.

The United States Tax Code has undergone no serious reform since 1986. Since then, loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions have distorted its clarity, increased its inequity, and frustrated our ability to govern ourselves. 

At its core, any tax system is in place to raise the revenue needed to pay the government’s bills. But where that revenue should come from raises crucial questions: Should our tax code be progressive, with the wealthier paying more than the poor, and if so, to what extent? Should we tax income or consumption or both? Of the various ideas proposed by economists and politicians—from tax increases to tax cuts, from a VAT to a Fair Tax—what will work and won’t? By tracing the history of our own tax system and by assessing the way other countries have solved similar problems, Bartlett explores the surprising answers to all of these questions, giving a sense of the tax code’s many benefits—and its inevitable burdens. 

Tax reform will be a major issue debated in the years ahead. Growing budget deficits and the expiration of various tax cuts loom. Reform, once a philosophical dilemma, is turning into a practical crisis. By framing the various tax philosophies that dominate the debate, Bartlett explores the distributional, technical, and political advantages and costs of the various proposals and ideas that will come to dominate America’s political conversation in the years to come.

Simon & Schuster (January 24, 2012)

Book Reviews

Bartlett on Tax ReformHoover Institution
Myths, loopholes and a case for reformFinancial Times
Bartlett's Not-So-Familiar QuotationsTaxAnalysts
A simple bare necessityThe Economist
Capital PunishmentThe American Conservative
Three Big Tax LiesThe American Prospect
Bruce Bartlett's Accessible and Insightful Guide to Tax ReformForbes

Praise

"A lucid analysis... a provocative book... remarkably successful in interweaving the underlying economics of the US tax system with the political choices that have made it what it is."
Financial Times

"Today we’re living in a country deeply divided between winners and losers. Nowhere is that more evident than in our tax system — so distorted by loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions favoring the already rich and powerful that it no longer can raise the money needed to pay the government’s bills. Among the people who saw this crisis coming was the conservative economist Bruce Bartlett... The Benefit and the Burden is a layman’s guide through the jungle of a tax system that, thanks to rented politicians and anti-tax ideologues like Grover Norquist, enable the one percent to make off like bandits while our national debt soars sky-high."
— Bill Moyers

"[Bartlett’s] analysis of tax burdens and policies in modern times is essential reading for anyone following the present debate about income inequality and taxation."
Worth

The New American Economy

The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward

Bruce Bartlett

As a domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan, Bruce Bartlett was one of the originators of Reaganomics, the supply-side economic theory that conservatives have clung to for decades.

In The New American Economy, Bartlett goes back to the economic roots that made Impostor a bestseller and abandons the conservative dogma in favor of a policy strongly based on what’s worked in the past. Marshalling compelling history and economics, he explains how economic theories that may be perfectly valid at one moment in time under one set of circumstances tend to lose validity over time because they are misapplied under different circumstances. Bartlett makes a compelling, historically-based case for large tax increases, once anathema to him and his economic allies. In The New American Economy, Bartlett seeks to clarify a compelling and way forward for the American economy.

Palgrave Macmillan; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)

Praise

"Bruce Bartlett is a rarity in Washington, an honest man. In The New American Economy, Bartlett combines an informed insider's knowledge and an economic historian's perspective to create a compelling explanation of where supply side economics came from and what went wrong with Reaganomics."
— David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Free Lunch and Perfectly Legal

"Bruce Bartlett is right. The welfare state isn’t disappearing. And if Republicans continue to try to roll it back the by using tax cuts to “starve the beast” or trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare, they’re history. Wise thoughts from one of the creators of Reaganomics who has seen the light."
— Robert Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley

“Among today's conservatives, only Bruce Bartlett would have the courage and unconventionality to embrace John Maynard Keynes, much less to champion a big new tax. But here's the thing: he's right. Anyone seeking a new way forward for conservatism or the economy needs to start here.
— Jonathan Rauch, National Journal

Wrong on Race

The Democratic Party's Buried Past

Bruce Bartlett

In Wrong on Race, Bruce Bartlett sets the record straight on a hidden past that many Democrats would rather see swept under the carpet. Ranging from the founding of the Republic through to today, it rectifies the unfair perceptions of America's two national parties. While Nixon's infamous "Southern Strategy" is constantly referenced in the media, less well remembered are Woodrow Wilson's segregation of the entire Federal civil service; FDR's appointment of a member of the KKK to the Supreme Court; John F. Kennedy's apathy towards civil rights legislation; and the ascension of Robert Byrd, who is current President pro tempore of the Senate, third in line in the presidential line of succession, and a former member of the KKK.

For the last seventy years, African Americans have voted en masse for one party, with little in the end to show for it. Is it time for the pendulum to swing the other way? With the Republican Party furiously engaged in pre-2008 soul searching, this exhaustively researched, incisively written exposé will be an important and compelling component of that debate as we head towards November.

Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition (January 8, 2008)

Impostor

How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy

Bruce Bartlett

George W. Bush came to the presidency in 2000 claiming to be the heir of Ronald Reagan. But while he did cut taxes, in most other respects he has governed in a way utterly unlike his revered predecessor, expanding the size and scope of government, letting immigration go unchecked, and allowing the federal budget to mushroom out of control.

Despite their strong misgivings, most conservatives remained silent during Bush’s first term. But a series of missteps and scandals, culminating in the ill-conceived nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, has brought this hidden rift within the conservative movement crashing to the surface.

Now, in what is sure to be the political book of the season, Bruce Bartlett lays bare the incompetence and profligacy of Bush’s economic policies. A highly respected Washington economist—and true-believing Reaganite—Bartlett started out as a supporter of Bush and helped him craft his tax cuts. But he was dismayed by the way they were executed. Reagan combined his tax cuts with fiscal restraint, but Bush has done the opposite. Bartlett thus reluctantly concluded that Bush is not a Reaganite at all, but an unprincipled opportunist who will do whatever he or his advisers think is expedient to buy votes.

In this sober, thorough, and utterly devastating book, Bartlett attacks the Bush Administration's economic performance root and branch, from the "stovepiping" of its policy process to the coercive tactics used to ram its policies through Congress, to the effects of the policies themselves. He is especially hard on Bush’s enormous new Medicare entitlement…and predicts that within a few years, Bush's tax cuts and unrestricted spending will produce an economic crisis that will require a major tax increase, probably in the form of a European-style VAT.

Bartlett has surprisingly kind words for Bill Clinton, whose record on the budget was far better than Bush’s. Whatever else one may think of him, Bartlett argues, Clinton cut spending, abolished a federal entitlement program, and left a budget surplus. By contrast, Bush has increased spending, created a massive entitlement program, and produced the biggest deficits in American history.

In fact, Bartlett concludes, Bush is less like Reagan than like Nixon: an arch-conservative Republican, bitterly hated by liberals, who vainly tried to woo moderates by enacting big parts of the liberal program. It didn't work then, and it won't work now—and may have similar harmful effects for the GOP.

Doubleday; First Edition edition (February 21, 2006)

Topics

Bruce tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Tax Reform

Videos

The Economic Club of Memphis

Articles

— The Week
— The New Yorker
— The New York Times
— The New York Times
— The Fiscal Times
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