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

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9780156011525: The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It

Ever since Colonial times, Americans have been bedeviled by high taxes that seem to return little of material value to citizens. Taking a page from Thomas Paine's "Greedy Hand" manifesto, Amity Shlaes has written a provocative and fascinating book exposing the inequities of our present tax system, and offers concrete, coherent solutions to simplify our lives. Today, taxes make up more than a third of our economy, the highest level in peacetime history. We truly live in the land Paine foresaw when he warned of government "thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry." This book is a cultural examination of the way taxes influence our behavior, and how they force us into an arbitrary system that punishes families and individual enterprise. Shlaes shows how so-called tax breaks do little to help families and how married women are unfairly taxed more. She uncovers the problems that engage and enrage us, proving that Social Security issues and school inadequacies are at heart tax problems. And she charts a course out of the madness of tax oppression, offering a number of solutions that will give each of us a fairer, simpler system. With compassion for Americans and their dreams, Shlaes makes the best case yet for rethinking our tax code.

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Review:

Americans are being taxed to death--literally, says author Amity Shlaes in The Greedy Hand. At work or out shopping, upon marriage or even after death, we are paying more in taxes than ever before, according to Shlaes, a Wall Street Journal editorial writer. The average family with two wage-earners is now seeing almost 40 percent of its money go to local, state, and federal taxes. "The greedy hand of government"--first described by American revolutionary Thomas Paine--is greedier than ever, creating a situation ripe for tax reform, if not revolt, Shlaes writes. "We think of our forefathers who felt compelled to rebel against the Crown for 'imposing Taxes on us without our consent.' We know we live in a democracy, and so must have chosen this arrangement. Yet nowadays we find ourselves feeling that taxes are imposed on us 'without our consent'," she writes.

Chapter by chapter, and in great detail, Shlaes analyzes the tremendous burdens imposed by a wide range of taxes. She assails the marriage penalty, for example, and exposes problems with Social Security and the estate tax. And she documents how Americans feel increasingly unhappy with what government does with their money and shows how people go to great lengths to avoid taxes--driving across state lines to escape a sales tax, for instance. Shlaes calls for political leaders to overhaul the nation's tax code and suggests starting with guiding principles like the following: "Taxes have to be simple;" "Taxes have to be lower;" and "It's time to privatize Social Security." The Greedy Hand warns that the tax system damages the economy and hurts working people, and is a good read for anyone who wants to rail intelligently about taxes. --Dan Ring

From the Publisher:

"The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It," Amity Schlaes not only manages to keep you wide awake, she also sets your blood to boiling. . . the point she is making is that the present American tax system is greedy, intrusive, unpredictable and meddling. . . Elsewhere, Ms. Schlaes details other alleged excesses of what Thomas Paine in "The Rights of Man" described as "the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude.". . . Still, by criticizing our present tax code so concretely, Ms. Schlaes has provided a thoughtful overview of the system's many contradictions and inequities. Even if you don't always agree with her conclusions, she defines the debate over what we ought to do and gets you thinking constructively about the problems she identifies".

--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

"Finally, someone has given us a common-sense guide to America's worst regulatory mess: the tax system. Vividly told with stories from around America, THE GREEDY HAND builds a compelling case that the largest loser is democracy itself. The tax system is so complex that we no longer have any link between what we pay for and what we get."
--Philip K. Howard, author of THE DEATH OF COMMON SENSE

"Amity Shlaes is among the most brilliant of the young writers who are transforming American financial journalism. This important and timely book outlines the problem which dominates the politics of the 21st century--how to reform the income tax fundamentally. And it provides a stunning solution."
--Paul Johnson, author of MODERN TIMES

"This is a terrific book on the history of politics and taxing in America. It is a must read--whether you come from the left, right, or mushy middle. Amity Shlaes takes us by the hand and leads us through the looking glass on a remarkable tour of our Mad Hatter tax system. Shlaes transcends taxes and peers into the soul of our twisted political process."
--Fred Goldberg, former IRS Commissioner, former Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, and Member of the National Commission on Restructuring the IRS

"THE GREEDY HAND is the economic bible for those who believe in growth."
--Steve Forbes

"Amity Shlaes is the Tocqueville of Tax."
--Lewis E. Lehrman, co-chairman of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History

"I never thought I would enjoy a book about taxes. But I thoroughly enjoyed Amity Shlaes' THE GREEDY HAND, which makes sense of our unduly complicated tax system. In explaining how the tax structure got to be what it is and how it must change, her writing is delightful, and her logic is clear and persuasive."
--Diane Ravitch

"Finally, along comes the book that can break the political logjam on taxes. Amity Shlaes delivers a brilliant expose of what's wrong with our modern tax culture and why citizens are so disillusioned with lawmakers. THE GREEDY HAND is the compass for thinking about overhauling the entire tax system in America."
--Jack Kemp

This edition includes a new introduction by the author.

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