The Rise of Rhetoric in Tax Reform Debate: An Example

Tulsa. Law Review, Vol. 70, p. 2345, 1996

27 Pages Posted: 22 May 2009

Date Written: 1996


In the United States, rhetoric has always been an intrinsic part of tax debates. The rhetoric of current debates, however, is even more heated than the great debates of the 1980s. Today, rhetoric has so expanded both quantitatively and qualitatively that the real issues have all but disappointed from public discussion. After briefly explaining the basic tax issues involved, this Essay examines the increased use of rhetoric in the tax area. As an illustration of quantitative expansion, the Essay compares two reports prepared by the Joint Economic Committee, a committee established to provide legal assistance to Congress on technical and specialized matters. The 1984 report, largely devoid of rhetoric, provided an analytical framework for congressional discussion by presenting both sides of the basic tax issues. The 1995 report largely devoid of analysis, provided a rhetorical platform to advance only one side of the issues-the pro flat, consumption side. As an example of the qualitative expansion of rhetoric, the Essay notes the rise of a new rhetorical device. Generational warfare – pitting the old against the youth –now joins class warfare as a potent tool in the rhetorical arsenal. The Essay concludes that the expanded rhetoric, especially in government reports such as the JEC reports, is detrimental to the rational public debates necessary for a healthy democracy.

Keywords: flat tax, generational accounting, income tax, politics, rhetoric, tax policy, tax reform

Suggested Citation

Kornhauser, Marjorie E., The Rise of Rhetoric in Tax Reform Debate: An Example (1996). Tulsa. Law Review, Vol. 70, p. 2345, 1996, Available at SSRN:

Marjorie E. Kornhauser (Contact Author)

Tulane University School of Law ( email )

6329 Freret Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

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