Taxation: The People's Business
A masterful explanation of the American tax system by the reformer Andrew Mellon. During his 11 years in office as Secretary of the Treasury for ... Show synopsis A masterful explanation of the American tax system by the reformer Andrew Mellon. During his 11 years in office as Secretary of the Treasury for Harding and Coolidge, he cut income taxes, reduced public spending, and brought an end to the excess profits tax, all while reducing the federal debt left over from World War I. The opening words are a classic summary of his tax policy: "The problem of the government is to fix rates which will bring in a maximum amount of revenue to the Treasury and at the same time bear not too heavily on the taxpayer or on business enterprises. A sound tax policy must take into consideration three factors. It must produce sufficient revenue for the government; it must lessen, so far as possible, the burden of taxation on those least able to bear it; and it must also remove those influences which might retard the continued steady development of business and industry on which, in the last analysis, so much of our prosperity depends. Furthermore, a permanent tax system should be designed, not merely for one or two years nor for the effect it may have on any given class of taxpayers but should be worked out with regard to conditions over a long period and with a view to its ultimate effect on the prosperity of the country as a whole. These are the principles on which the Treasury's tax policy is based, and any revision of taxes which ignores these fundamental principles will prove merely a makeshift and must eventually be replaced by a system based on economic rather than political considerations." Such insight rewards applause, and we must take these words to heart. Despite the fact that this study was conducted during the 1920s, the lessons and ideas Mellon expresses are truly timeless.