Remarks During a White House Briefing for Supporters of Tax Reform

December 11, 1985

Sorry that I have kept you waiting a few minutes here. I was a little late; I was meeting with some Congressmen. You can't imagine what we were talking about. [Laughter] Well, I thank you for being with us here. And I would like to say a few words about the upcoming vote on tax reform. It's a deeply significant vote in our long, uphill climb to streamline the Nation's tax code to make it the strongest possible engine for growth and opportunity and a model for simplicity and fairness. Now, we do not believe that after all our efforts, good-faith efforts on both sides of the aisle, and after today's developments, that our work should be lost for lack of a handful of votes. I hope Members will vote yes on final passage to allow this important issue to move forward.

Both the tax reform proposals before the Congress would reduce corporate and individual tax rates substantially, bringing the top individual rate down to its lowest level since 1931. The minimum tax would be strengthened, even as tax shelters and special preferences are eliminated and restricted. And millions of the working poor would be removed from the tax rolls as the personal exemption and standard deduction are increased.

But I realize there are loyal supporters of mine who have difficulties with the Ways and Means bill, even some with the Republican substitute. But let me say here that despite the good aspects of these proposals, as far as we're concerned, more improvement needs to be done. We continue to insist that true tax reform is imperative, but when we examined the legislation, we did conclude that, in many respects, it is better than the current tax law. It is the beginning, or at least it can be the beginning, of a final product that is true and historic tax reform. And it's your support and help that can give us the chance to move forward now on the tax reform.

We can't afford to wait. If we let tax reform die, I think it will be years before we can bring it back. You only have to look back in your own memories to say, how far back do I have to remember before anyone ever attempted to reform this tax system, which has grown more complex and more cumbersome and more unjust as the years have gone on. So, what I'm saying and urging you today is simply this: Give us the chance to finish the job. Give us the chance to improve this initiative in the Senate based on what I've just said. I thank you for all that you're doing, but we need you more than ever right now.

You know, it's hard to realize that a Senator back in 1913, when they were debating the first income tax amendment, was literally laughed out of politics and lost his office because in opposing the income tax -- he said, ``Why, the way this is worded,'' he said, ``some day we could find that a government could take even as much as 10 percent of a man's earnings.'' [Laughter] And they thought that was so ridiculous that they literally, as I say, laughed him out of politics. Well, wouldn't it be nice to be back there. The business I used to be in -- it was good enough for an agent. [Laughter] But there is one other comparison also. The Lord says that His share is a tenth. We believe in tithing, but when you start computing Caesar's share nowadays -- [laughter] -- and the Lord had said, ``If I profit you 10 times as much, you will give 10 times as much.'' Now, in Caesar's case, if he profits you 10 times as much, you give 50 times as much -- [laughter] -- to him.

Well, I don't think Caesar ought to be better than that other friend. So, keep at it, and I'm going back to talk to some more people about tax reform. Thank you all very much for being here.

Note: The President spoke at 3:48 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.