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Refinancing America

The Republican Antitax Agenda

Sheldon D. Pollack, Neil Caplan, Naomi B. Sokoloff

Publication Year: 2002

A fascinating account of the long history of antitax sentiments within the Republican party, Refinancing America looks at how opposition to income and wealth taxation became the dominant factor influencing the party’s political agenda. The countless proposals for tax cuts introduced by Republicans in Congress during the 1990s, as well as the Bush administration’s $1.6 trillion tax cut in May 2001, were not aberrations, but rather the continuation of a long tradition of hostility to taxation. Nevertheless, the rhetoric and devotion to the antitax cause in the 1990s was more pronounced than in the past, and this book explains how this more extreme strain of antitax politics came to dominate the GOP.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

The subject of this book is the Republican party’s long-time obsession with tax cuts. This obsession has been expressed in the countless proposals for tax cuts introduced by Republicans in Congress during past decades, as well as the successful campaign by the administration of President George W. Bush for a $1.35 trillion tax cut. Since the 1920s, regardless of whether the country...

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pp. xiii-xiv

A great many people assisted me in this project. In particular, I wish to thank Youssef Cohen of New York University, Paul Quirk of the University of Illinois, Larry Seidman of the University of Delaware, Jay Soled of Rutgers University, Ronald King of Tulane University, and Irving Louis Horowitz of Rutgers University. Each read portions of the manuscript and offered valuable suggestions...

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pp. 1-17

During the 1980s, tax policy emerged as one of the most prominent issues on the agenda of the Republican party. In the 1990s, tax policy (or more properly, “antitax” policy, by which I mean a public policy of opposition to federal taxation) became the outright obsession of the Grand Old Party.1 If anything, the infatuation is even stronger today, following the successful Republican...

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1. The Origins of Republican Tax Policy

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pp. 19-33

The Republican party has enjoyed a long history and mixed fortune in American politics. The dominant political organization in the United States during the Civil War, and then again in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the GOP was reduced to a distinctly secondary role in the new national party system that emerged during the 1930s. Virtually without a presence in the solidly...

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2. Forever a Minority Party?

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pp. 35-56

With the crash of the stock market in October 1929 and the onset of the longest and most severe depression in the nation’s history, existing political alliances were shaken apart. By 1932, there were 13 million unemployed (nearly 25 percent of the civilian workforce), most of them ill-fed, ill-clothed, and without adequate housing. The Republican in the White House, Herbert Hoover, would pay the...

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3. Reagan Changes the Course

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pp. 57-69

In the mid-1970s, the conservative movement in the United States experienced a revival of sorts, giving a timely boost to the fortunes of the Republican party. So-called New Right social conservatives organized, and new groups representing their interests sprang up across the country. These single-issue grassroots interest groups, organized around such themes as opposition to abortion, crime, and...

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4. The Tax Deadlock Decade

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pp. 71-106

Tax legislation dominated the American political agenda in the 1980s. No less than six major revenue bills were enacted during the decade. In an amazing display of sustained legislative power and political compromise between supply-side Republicans and liberal Democrats, Congress virtually rewrote the tax code in 1986. On account of the great volume of tax legislation during the...

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5. Tax Policy in the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 107-136

President Clinton’s definitive veto in September 1999 of the $792 billion tax cut put forth by congressional Republicans forced them to reconsider their strategy for fiscal revolution. After failing to achieve any of their main tax policy objectives in 1999, congressional Republicans decided to try a new tactic in 2000. Since the campaign for a single, massive tax-reduction bill had failed, the...

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6. GOP Campaign to Kill the “Death Tax”

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pp. 137-158

Throughout the 1990s, Republicans talked about repealing the federal estate tax, along with the federal gift tax and the so-called generation-skipping transfer tax. The campaign finally began to bear fruit in the twenty-first century. For example, on June 9, 2000, amid much hoopla, the U.S. House of Representatives voted by a lopsided margin of 279–136 to repeal the estate tax. While the...

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7. The Great Corporate Tax Giveaway

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pp. 159-168

According to the conventional wisdom, Congress shut down the tax shelter industry back in 1986. Until then, wealthy taxpayers could find all sorts of dodges to avoid paying taxes on their income. Rich dentists, doctors, lawyers (anyone with significant income) could buy investments that would generate artificial tax losses to shelter their income and thereby reduce their taxes. Even if offsetting...

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8. The Politics of the Surplus

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pp. 169-198

In late 1996, predictions of imminent budget surpluses began circulating in Washington. After decades of deficits, a soaring national debt, and projections of budget shortfalls for years to come, suddenly the government’s economic position was turning around. Mostly, this was attributable to the economic prosperity that the nation had been enjoying since late 1992. The unprecedented, sustained...

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Conclusion. The Prospects for U.S. Tax Policy

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pp. 199-203

Federal tax policy changed dramatically after 1980. Prior to that, the long period of Democratic dominance over the party system that began with the New Deal had produced a fairly stable, albeit flawed tax policy. It was a distinctly Democratic tax policy, although the tax policymaking process favored numerous Republican interests as well. Indeed, it was a policymaking process that generated tax...

Appendix 1: Charts

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pp. 205-209

Appendix 2: Tables

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pp. 211-225


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pp. 227-265


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pp. 267-270


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pp. 271-280

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487549
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791455890
Print-ISBN-10: 0791455890

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 5 tables
Publication Year: 2002