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Federal Taxation in America: A Short History (Woodrow Wilson Center Press) 2nd Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521545204
ISBN-10: 052154520X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Just as its title suggests, this book is a historical review of Federal taxation in America, updating the 1996 first edition by expanding coverage to 2004. It does an excellent job of tracing the key features of Federal taxation since the Federal government took shape with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. As such, it is a worthwhile read for faculty serious about learning and using the deep structure of taxation in their teaching, research, or public lives." - John E. Karayan, Professor, California State Polytechnic University, The Journal of American Taxation Association

Book Description

Authoritative and readable, this brief survey is the first comprehensive historical overview of the US federal tax systems published since 1967. Its coverage extends from the ratification of the Constitution to the present day. Brownlee describes the five principal stages of federal taxation in relation to the crises that led to their adoption--the formation of the republic, the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II--and discusses the significant modifications during the Reagan presidency. Now in a new edition, Brownlee extends his coverage to the present, with a new chapter focusing on the current tax policies of the George W. Bush administration. This discussion is set in a larger analysis of contemporary tax and fiscal issues, including war finance, Social Security, and Medicare.
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Product Details

  • Series: Woodrow Wilson Center Press
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (May 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052154520X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521545204
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,263,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Brownlee gives a great overview of America's taxation history. The book is a fairly fast read and gives the reader a good historical framework without a multitude of minutia. It also seems to be relatively free from bias, although Brownlee evidently does not adore FDR...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is meant to be a broad history of how the United States federal government has received its internal revenue since the ratification of the Constitution. Most of the early history is not explored in depth, when the United States relied primarily on tariffs and some excise taxes to fund the government.

The book really goes into detail with the start of the Civil War when the government had to seriously raise funds for the war effort. This included the first (albeit temporary) federal income tax.

From there the book continues on through different "tax regimes" when major changes in policy occurred during World War I and the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, with the New Deal and World War II.

About half of the book is dedicated to a more modern history. This starts with the Reagan presidency, including the landmark Tax Reform Act of 1986, and continues through the presidencies of Bush, Sr., Clinton, and the first term of George W. Bush.

All in all, this was a relatively interesting look at federal taxation history. This book is not for everyone. There is a lot of discussion with numbers regarding tax brackets, tax rates, deficits, and the like. The author also looks at some of the politics that led to the enactment of various revenue acts. I would only recommend this book to those interested in such a niche subject.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this very well researched book. It appears to be the best-researched book on the subject despite its short length. Brownlee does a very good job of describing the interplay between private interests and ideology regarding U.S. tax policy. In addition, he keeps in mind that policy does not occur in a vacuum. He carefully describes the political entrepreneurs who make change come about.
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Format: Hardcover
The United States began as a dispute over taxes. The Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party. Taxes were levied by England and the Americans didn't want to pay them. So we had a revolution to eliminate them. Then, somewhere along the way we found that we needed taxes to support what we wanted the Federal Government to do - like fight the Civil War.
This began the first phase of Federal taxation which lasted until World War I. Phase 2 lasted until World War II. And the basic structure of taxes established then lasted until Reagan in 1980. We are now in a new phase with the structure getting gradually changed under George W. Bush.
While the news media have been spending almost all their time on things like Iraq, behind the scenes the fundamental basic taxing structure is being debated between the President and Congress. Still being called the same things, like income tax, the income tax may take on more of the attributes of a tax on consumption. Widely attacked by the Democrats, under the Bush tax program, the richest 5 percent of taxpayers account for 56 percnt of income tax collections (up from 42% in 1986). And the deficit has increased to about 4.2%, well under the almost 6% of the Reagan era. It will be very interesting to see what happens next.
Well written, easy to understand, this is a book that goes far beyond the 30 second sound bites so popular on today's television news to provide an explanation on how the taxing structure of the United States got where it is, and some good thoughts on where it is going.
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