A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System

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New York Times bestelling author T. R. Reid travels around the world to solve the urgent problem of America's failing tax code, unravelling a complex topic in plain English - and telling a rollicking story along the way. 

The U.S. tax code is a total write-off. Crammed with loopholes and special interest provisions, it works for no one except tax lawyers, accountants, and huge corporations. Not for the first time, we have reached a breaking point. That happened in 1922, and again in 1954, and again in 1986. In other words, every thirty-two years. Which means that the next complete overhaul is due in 2018. But what should be in this new tax code? Can we make the U.S. tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient? Yes, yes, and yes. Can we cut tax rates and still bring in more revenue? Yes.
 
Other rich countries, from Estonia to New Zealand to the UK—advanced, high-tech, free-market democracies—have all devised tax regimes that are equitable, effective, and easy on the taxpayer.  But the United States has languished. So byzantine are the current statutes that, by our government’s own estimates, Americans spend six billion hours and $10 billion every year preparing and filing their taxes. In the Netherlands that task takes a mere fifteen minutes! Successful American companies like Apple, Caterpillar, and Google effectively pay no tax at all in some instances because of loopholes that allow them to move profits offshore. Indeed, the dysfunctional tax system has become a major cause of economic inequality.
 
In A Fine Mess, T. R. Reid crisscrosses the globe in search of the exact solutions to these urgent problems. With an uncanny knack for making a complex subject not just accessible but gripping, he investigates what makes good taxation (no, that’s not an oxymoron) and brings that knowledge home where it is needed most. Never talking down or reflexively siding with either wing of politics, T. R. Reid presses the case for sensible root-and-branch reforms with a companionable ebullience. This affects everyone. Doing our taxes will never be America's favorite pastime, but it can and should be so much easier and fairer.
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About the author

T. R. Reid is a longtime correspondent for The Washington Post and former chief of its Tokyo and London bureaus. He is a commentator for National Public Radio and has been a correspondent for several PBS documentaries. His bestselling books include The Healing of America, The United States of Europe, The Chip, and Confucius Lives Next Door.


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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Apr 4, 2017
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780735223967
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Taxation / General
Political Science / American Government / Legislative Branch
Political Science / Comparative Politics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid takes a candid look at Washington personalities and politics, revealing the motives and strategies, the cooperation and rivalry, the honesty and the deceit behind a seemingly minor piece of legislation. He traces the course of S.790--the Inland Waterways Bill--from its inception to its eventual passage, a process with as many twists and subplots as a novel, and with characters just as vivid.

In Congressional Odyssey: The Saga of a Senate Bill you will discover:

- a cast of main characters including Jimmy Carter, Edward Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Hamilton Jordan, Howard Baker, Tip O'Neill, Russel Long, and other key political figures

- a covert alliance between the railroad lobby and environmentalists, masked by a money-laundering scheme

- the White House in-fighting triggered by the bill, leading to the ouster of Brock Adams during President Carter's cabinet shakeup

- Carter's problems with the Congressional leadership, exacerbated by his support of the Inland Waterways Bill authored by Republican Senator Pete Domenici

- "know-who" lawyers, who get things done through their connections rather than their legal abilities

- the Alton, Illinois, Lock and Dam 26 project that earned Senator Proxmire's first "Golden Fleece Award" for wasting tax dollars

- the thoughts and feelings of the dozens of central personalities who talked with surprising frankness to T.R. Reid

Congressional Odyssey: The Saga of a Senate Bill makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the people and the power struggles in the public eye, and behind closed doors, on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

From one of the world's preeminent political historians, a magisterial study of political leadership around the world from the advent of parliamentary democracy to the age of Obama.
All too frequently, leadership is reduced to a simple dichotomy: the strong versus the weak. Yet, there are myriad ways to exercise effective political leadership--as well as different ways to fail. We blame our leaders for economic downfalls and praise them for vital social reforms, but rarely do we question what makes some leaders successful while others falter. In this magisterial and wide-ranging survey of political leadership over the past hundred years, renowned Oxford politics professor Archie Brown challenges the widespread belief that strong leaders--meaning those who dominate their colleagues and the policy-making process--are the most successful and admirable.

In reality, only a minority of political leaders will truly make a lasting difference. Though we tend to dismiss more collegial styles of leadership as weak, it is often the most cooperative leaders who have the greatest impact. Drawing on extensive research and decades of political analysis and experience, Brown illuminates the achievements, failures and foibles of a broad array of twentieth century politicians. Whether speaking of redefining leaders like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Margaret Thatcher, who expanded the limits of what was politically possible during their time in power, or the even rarer transformational leaders who played a decisive role in bringing about systemic change--Charles de Gaulle, Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela, among them--Brown challenges our commonly held beliefs about political efficacy and strength.

Overturning many of our assumptions about the twentieth century's most important figures, Brown's conclusions are both original and enlightening. The Myth of the Strong Leader compels us to reassess the leaders who have shaped our world - and to reconsider how we should choose and evaluate those who will lead us into the future.
In July 1942, the French police in Paris, acting for the German military government, arrested Victor Ripp’s three-year-old cousin, Alexandre. Two months later, the boy was killed in Auschwitz. In Hell’s Traces, Ripp examines this act through the prism of family history. In addition to Alexandre, ten members of Ripp’s family on his father’s side died in the Holocaust. His mother’s side of the family, numbering thirty people, was in Berlin when Hitler came to power. Without exception they escaped the Final Solution.

Hell’s Traces tells the story of the two families’ divergent paths. To spark the past to life, he embarks on a journey to visit Holocaust memorials throughout Europe. “Could a stone pillar or a bronze plaque or whatever else constitutes a memorial,” he asks, “cause events that took place more than seven decades ago to appear vivid?”

A memorial in Warsaw that includes a boxcar like the ones that carried Jews to Auschwitz compels Ripp to contemplate the horror of Alexandre’s transport to his death. One in Berlin that invokes the anti-Jewish laws of the 1930s allows him to better understand how his mother’s family escaped the Nazis. In Paris he stumbles across a playground dedicated to the memory of the French children who were deported, Alexandre among them. Ultimately, Ripp sees thirty-five memorials in six countries. He encounters the artists who designed the memorials, historians who recall the events that are memorialized, and survivors with their own stories to tell.

Resolutely unsentimental, Hell’s Traces is structured like a travelogue in which each destination enables a reckoning with the past.

Those who've heard T. R. Reid's weekly commentary on National Public Radio or read his far-flung reporting in National Geographic or  The Washington Post know him to be trenchant, funny, and cutting-edge, but also erudite and deeply grounded in whatever subject he's discussing. In Confucius Lives Next Door he brings all these attributes to the fore as he examines why Japan, China, Taiwan, and other East Asian countries enjoy the low crime rates, stable families, excellent education, and civil harmony that remain so elusive in the West. Reid, who has spent twenty-five years studying Asia and was for five years The Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief, uses his family's experience overseas--including mishaps and misapprehensions--to look at Asia's "social miracle" and its origin in the ethical values outlined by the Chinese sage Confucius 2,500 years ago.
        
When Reid, his wife, and their three children moved from America to Japan, the family quickly became accustomed to the surface differences between the two countries. In Japan, streets don't have names, pizza comes with seaweed sprinkled on top, and businesswomen in designer suits and Ferragamo shoes go home to small concrete houses whose washing machines are outdoors because there's no room inside. But over time Reid came to appreciate the deep cultural differences, helped largely by his courtly white-haired neighbor Mr. Matsuda, who personified ancient Confucian values that are still dominant in Japan. Respect, responsibility, hard work--these and other principles are evident in Reid's witty, perfectly captured portraits, from that of the school his young daughters attend, in which the students maintain order and scrub the floors, to his depiction of the corporate ceremony that welcomes new employees and reinforces group unity. And Reid also examines the drawbacks of living in such a society, such as the ostracism of those who don't fit in and the acceptance of routine political bribery.
        
Much Western ink has been spilled trying to figure out the East, but few journalists approach the subject with T. R. Reid's familiarity and insight. Not until we understand the differences between Eastern and Western perceptions of what constitutes success and personal happiness will we be able to engage successfully, politically and economically, with those whose moral center is governed by Confucian doctrine. Fascinating and immensely readable, Confucius Lives Next Door prods us to think about what lessons we might profitably take from the "Asian Way"--and what parts of it we want to avoid.
Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid takes a candid look at Washington personalities and politics, revealing the motives and strategies, the cooperation and rivalry, the honesty and the deceit behind a seemingly minor piece of legislation. He traces the course of S.790--the Inland Waterways Bill--from its inception to its eventual passage, a process with as many twists and subplots as a novel, and with characters just as vivid.

In Congressional Odyssey: The Saga of a Senate Bill you will discover:

- a cast of main characters including Jimmy Carter, Edward Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Hamilton Jordan, Howard Baker, Tip O'Neill, Russel Long, and other key political figures

- a covert alliance between the railroad lobby and environmentalists, masked by a money-laundering scheme

- the White House in-fighting triggered by the bill, leading to the ouster of Brock Adams during President Carter's cabinet shakeup

- Carter's problems with the Congressional leadership, exacerbated by his support of the Inland Waterways Bill authored by Republican Senator Pete Domenici

- "know-who" lawyers, who get things done through their connections rather than their legal abilities

- the Alton, Illinois, Lock and Dam 26 project that earned Senator Proxmire's first "Golden Fleece Award" for wasting tax dollars

- the thoughts and feelings of the dozens of central personalities who talked with surprising frankness to T.R. Reid

Congressional Odyssey: The Saga of a Senate Bill makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the people and the power struggles in the public eye, and behind closed doors, on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

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