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The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It Paperback – February 28, 2000

3.5 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (February 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156011522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156011525
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Most Americans believe that their government is greedy. Those who do will still find this book earth shatering. Shlaes gives stunning examples of just how much Americans are being ripped off by the current tax code. In painstaking detail she describes how achievement, hard work, and even marriage are punished by the greed of the U.S. government. She points out very effectively that it is now possible to make too much money. When one reads this, one can't help but think that the government views them only as a revenue target. Her chapter on the I.R.S. is very enlightening. It is commonly believed that the I.R.S. is tyrannical. One would think that if it was tyrannical it would at least be effective. Shlaes really hits one out in describing just how ineffective the I.R.S. is. Also, Shlaes argues very convincingly that problems such as rising healthcare costs and the collapse of public education can, at the heart of the matter, be blamed on an inefficient tax code. Words cannot effectively state just how powerful this book is. A must read for all Americans. Maybe then some real tax reform will begin.
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By A Customer on July 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This should be required Civics reading for high school students. The author gives a politically non-biased explanation of the events that have warped simple tax proposals into Frankenstein's monster.
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Format: Paperback
This book is similar To Martin Gross's the Tax Racket. It provides good summaries of the various taxes that we are slammed with by all levels of government. However, the portion of the subtitle telling us what we can do about the problem is short and weak. Elect politicians who will cut our taxes...yeah, ok. The only way the American people will get rid of the IRS and the income tax is if we all collectively decide to not file returns next year and we amend our W-4's so that no witholding tax is taken out. Hell, they can't arrest all of us. Where is the Spirit of 76?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although many Americans are aware that our tax rates are high and getting higher, the "Greedy Hand", shows us just how and how much the government steals from its citizens. It is very clear that although we have a representative republic and a capitalist economy, we are behaving more and more like any socialist country in Europe. We have cast the federal government as a twisted version of Robin Hood, stealing from the "rich" and giving to the "poor". The means through which this occurs runs the gamut from payroll taxes to the bewildering concept of the progressive tax, which punishes persons who dare to make a success of themselves. I am perplexed by the 15% flat tax opponents who cry that the rich won't pay their "fair share" - although these folks shoulder over 90% of the nation's tax burden. We have only to look at our President to see how well our progressive tax (with its special provisions for the rich) is working. According to published reports, the Clintons' tax return showed over $500,000 in income, while paying taxes at a 16% tax rate. Surely our president would not disapprove of the flat tax solution, since in effect, he is already practicing it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The 20th century was an arms race between the governments in the United States and its citizens to determine who would control the citizens' income. Government was on the offense and the citizens were on the defense. The citizens lost to date. Taxes went from less than 5 percent of income to 40 percent over that time. Most would agree that we cannot afford another century like that one.
This book nicely lays out the history of taxes that take more income and waste a lot of time and effort in the process. The author looks at sales taxes, withholding taxes at work, the marriage penalty in the income tax, whether the housing deduction for interest and taxes is a good thing or not, the problems with taxes on domestic help, property taxes and school support, the social security system, and estate taxes.
She doesn't like much of what she sees, and is concerned that reform could simply lead to adding new types of taxes (like a national sales tax while keeping all of the old taxes).
The newer the tax or tax idea, it seems like the worse it is working.
Her solutions are basically principles to be followed in reforming taxes. I doubt if they will be followed anytime soon. Recent polls show that most Americans are concerned about paying off the national debt and fixing social security before doing anything about cutting taxes.
Although most of her observations were good ones, I was a little doubtful about her automatic focus on the high income people being taken to the cleaners unfairly. There was not as much attention paid to benefits that lower income people may be receiving.
If you spend time thinking about how to keep your tax bill down, there's not much new in this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All Americans should read this eye opening account of Federal Governments insatiable appetite for imposing unnecessary tax burdens that seldom does not even solve the problem, but then hurts many to benefit a few. The tax code is riddled with help for some people but usually creates behavioral changes that defeat it's intended purposes. Most important to me is how much of our liberties and privacy is sacrificed while the government invades everything we do and own. A simple flat tax would be far more fair and does not require the invasion of our lives and property.

All freedom loving Americans will be angry as they read this and demand changes!
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