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Bill Bradley on Tax Reform

2000 Democratic Primary Challenger for President


Tax breaks for health insurance, working poor, & child care

As a former member of the Senate Finance Committee and one of the fathers of the 1986 overhaul of the tax code, Bradley arguably has more experience with tax policy than any of the other candidates. But he has offered no detailed tax proposals.

He has suggested using most of the surplus to deal with two big issues, reducing child poverty and finding ways to make health care more accessible and affordable. The only specific tax cuts he backs are tax breaks for health insurance payments, an expansion of the earned-income tax credit for the working poor, and an expansion of the child care credit in a way that would help low-income people. Bradley has also proposed clamping down on corporate tax loopholes.

Source: New York Times, p. 22 , Feb 27, 2000

Better health insurance and schools before tax cuts

Q: Why won’t the candidates just keep the tax rates the same and pay off the national debt?
A: Cutting taxes now is the answer. We have impressive prosperity. We have large budget surpluses. We should be fixing our roof while the sun is shining. We should now be passing national health insurance. We should be making major investments in our schools and we should commit as I have to reduce child poverty by four million in the first four years and eliminate child poverty in 10 years.
Source: Democrat debate in Harlem, NYC , Feb 21, 2000

Allied with Reagan to pass 1986 tax overhaul

Bradley stalked big goals from the start of his political career, his allies said. And they argue that his greatest victory, the 1986 overhaul of the tax system, proves that when Bradley embraces a challenge, he throws himself at it with the kind of vigor and stamina he tapped to make himself into a basketball Hall of Famer. Bradley labored for six years on the tax issue to overcome stern opposition in Congress and indifference from the Reagan administration. In the end, he forged an alliance with Ronald Reagan and convinced Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill that reducing tax rates made economic and political sense if the cuts were offset by closing loopholes.
Source: Boston Globe, p. A29 , Jan 30, 2000

Not every tax cut is good for America

Q: Have you ever had to make a decision you knew would hurt you politically, but you had to put principle over politics? A: In 1981, Ronald Reagan’s tax bill [was] before the Senate. I was the one person to vote against it, because I predicted there would be gigantic budget deficits as a result. Most of my Democratic colleagues voted for it because the theory was you never vote against a tax cut. But I felt that I was standing there and I was standing for what I believed in and I cast the vote.
Source: Democratic Debate in Durham, NH , Jan 5, 2000

Honesty compels avoiding ‘no new taxes’ pledge

“I am not taking the no new taxes pledge,” Bradley said. “My view is, you be honest with the American people. If you think you cannot predict the future, then it would be irresponsible to say, ‘No new taxes.’ I think people respect honesty. And I truly think that people are really tired of politicians who only tell them part of the truth.”
Source: Boston Globe, p. A18 , Dec 7, 1999

Veto $792B tax cut; surplus for health coverage & poverty

Bradley said he would use the federal surplus to extend health insurance to all Americans and to reduce childhood poverty. Bradley said he would press for tax cuts specifically aimed at helping middle-class and low-income people. Bradley says he would veto the $792 billion tax cut recently approved by Congress “in a nanosecond.”
Source: James Dao, New York Times, p. A17 , Aug 24, 1999

Would veto proposed $792 billion tax cut

Regarding the tax cut of $792 billion: “I’d veto it. There are more important things that we need in the country now than this size of tax cut. For example, there are still 44 million people in the country who don’t have any health insurance, there are still 15 million children in America who are below the poverty line. It’s not fiscally responsible. It could have the perverse effect of preventing reducing taxes if we got into a recession, and you need a tax cut available for countercyclical reasons.
Source: NBC’s “Meet the Press” , Aug 1, 1999

Surplus should pay down debt, & help people in need

One of the important things we can do now is pay down a little bit of the debt. That’s reducing interest rates in the long run. We can deal with those problems in the country that you can only deal with in good economic times. This should be the time when the economy is so good that we get more people on the prosperity train in this country. And I think you have to give those things consideration, as well as returning money in the form of tax cuts. Everybody’s for some form of tax cut.
Source: NBC’s “Meet the Press” , Aug 1, 1999

Best income tax has low rates and few loopholes

The best income tax system is the one with the lowest rates and the fewest loopholes. That way, equal incomes pay about equal tax, and those who have more pay a little bit more. The closest we’ve ever been to that is 1986, when we got tax rates down to 28% and 14%, and we got there by eliminating billions of dollars in special interest loopholes. When we eliminated special interest loopholes, we were able to cut taxes rates for all Americans.
Source: www.billbradley.com/ “On Tax Reform” 5/19/99 , May 19, 1999

Driving force behind the 1986 Tax Reform Act.

Bill Bradley was the driving force behind the 1986 Tax Reform Act which cut taxes for millions of Americans and closed billions of dollars worth of special interests tax loopholes.
Source: www.billbradley.com/pages/message/index.html 12/15/98 , Dec 15, 1998

Tax loopholes benefit few & distort market

Since the mid-1970s, I believed that the income-tax system was inequitable and in need of fundamental restructuring. Most Americans paid at higher tax rates than necessary so that a much smaller group of Americans could take advantage of loopholes. These loopholes (credits, exclusions, & deductions) for the few distorted the market’s role of allocating resources, [so] taxpayers with the same income paid varying amounts of taxes, depending on their personal probity or the acumen of their accountants.
Source: Time Present, Time Past, p. 92-93 , Jan 8, 1997

Bradley’s “Fair Tax” was basis for Reagan’s 1986 Tax Reform

As long as the tax code was so complicated that only experts could understand it. many Americans would remain convinced that you were a sucker if you played by the rules. [In the 1980s] I floated my version of basic tax reform--lowering tax rates & eliminating loopholes. I wrote a book called The Fair Tax about my ideas. In his 2nd term, Reagan proposed a version of the fair tax. It was known as the Tax Reform bill of 1986. The day the Tax Reform Act passed was a moment of great pride for me
Source: Time Present, Time Past, p. 93 , Jan 8, 1997

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Tax Reform.
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  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Bill Bradley.
Other candidates on Tax Reform: Bill Bradley on other issues:
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George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)

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Page last updated: Mar 13, 2014