The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do about It

Amity Shlaes, Author
Amity Shlaes, Author Random House (NY) $22.95 (255p) ISBN 978-0-375-50132-6
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-15-601152-5
Open Ebook - 131 pages - 978-0-307-81933-8
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-04878-2
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In a furious and furiously argued look at the effects of taxation on American life, Shlaes (Germany: The Empire Within), a Wall Street Journal editorial writer on tax policy, argues that a progressive tax structure merely acts as a brake on those who are moving up the ladder of success. She notes that American taxes--overt, hidden, intrusive, ubiquitous--once touched only a 12th of the average person's annual income but now bite into close to 40%. In place of today's byzantine tax code, Shlaes suggests either a flat tax or a simplified tax structure with lower rates and no home mortgage deduction (the latter change, she surmises, would very likely bring down interest rates for mortgages). She also calls for privatizing Social Security and favors abolition of the estate tax (arguing that the latter is a major killer of family businesses and that the rich find loopholes to avoid paying it anyway). Shlaes has nothing good to say about Medicare and, indeed, relates some awful horror stories about its shortcomings. In a chapter on school funding, she contends that the move by states to centralize school financing (as opposed to the old system whereby local property taxes funded local schools) has not brought equitable spending or improved academic performance. Whether or not readers agree with Shlaes's reform proposals, her informal, colorful report elucidates the often subtle ways taxes affect citizens' lives, from child rearing to the decision to marry, women's careers, the quality of day care, consumers' shopping habits and retirement. Agent, David Chalfant at IMG Literary; Conservative Book Club main selection; author tour. (Mar.)
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