Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rosty Remembered

After the Reagan tax cut of the 1980s, somebody pointed out the other day, the top income tax rate remained higher (50 percent) than the top rate (about 40 percent) during the "high-tax" Clinton years.

In the 1980s, the top tax rate didn't drop below 40 percent until the Tax Reform Act of 1986. That legislation, a well-intended but soon disemboweled effort to create a flatter, simpler tax system, was shepherded into being by legendary Congressman Dan Rostenkowski.

Rosty, the second Congressional old-timer to die this week, was the long-time chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Like the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, he left Washington under a cloud. But he got things done. For samples of Rosty's colorful persona, see Chicago Pol Dan Rostenkowski Remembered.
Rostenkowski was instrumental in passing a huge, sweeping tax reform law in 1986 that closed a bunch of loopholes for corporations and exempted millions of low-income workers from paying taxes. To boost his chances for passing the legislation, he made a rare television appearance in 1985 to urge viewers to show their support for tax reform by writing him a letter. He gave no address.

"Just address it to Rosty," he said. "The Post Office will get it to me."

75,000 letters poured in.

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