What should be said in concluding these reflections on the 1976 Tax Reform Act? Overall the verdict must be on the plus side. The Act does achieve reforms in a number of areas and the serious setbacks are relatively few. The credit goes to the reform groups on the Tax Committees and in the Congress, the Budget Committees and the Congressional Budget Office, the Joint Committee Staff, the few public interest groups, the dogged efforts of a few tax reform-minded Representatives and Senators, and in ways not really fully fathomable, to the efforts, differently pursued, of Chairman Ullman and Chairman Long. The Act in this sense is the story of a congressional reform effort pushed by a Democratic membership committed, in varying measure and with varying understanding of what was involved, to tax reform. But the Act is also a story of opportunities lost. For its limited success is a verdict on the limitations of congressional reform unaided by executive branch commitment to that same reform. We can see in almost every failure to accomplish more than was done in the Act the absence of the power that lies in executive leadership. That power encompasses the dramatization of the need for reform, the amassing of data and examples that sweep away opposition debating points, the technical skills in shaping provisions and moving around obstacles, and above all the persuasion of Members both to stand with the President and the Treasury and to use the desires of the Executive as a safe refuge against the pleas of the opposition lobbyists.
Stanley S. Surrey,
Reflections on the Tax Reform Act of 1976,
25 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol25/iss3/2