I always pay attention to articles written by Shay and Edward Kleinbard. Both are seasoned tax professionals with experience in private practice, government and academia. Shay practiced with Ropes & Gray for 20 years before jumping to Treasury in 2009. He served for two years as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Tax Affairs. Kleinbard practiced at Cleary Gottlieb for 30 years before serving as Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee from 2007-2009. After grinding away as tax attorneys for decades, and then bashing their heads against DC gridlock for a couple years, Shay and Kleinbard both sought refuge in the ivory tower. Shay teaches and writes from Harvard Law School; Kleinbard from the USC Law School.
As tax attorneys who represented a wide range of domestic and multinational businesses in private practice, Shay and Kleinbard bring thoughtful voices to the dialogue over U.S. tax reform. Politics aside, we need more contributions to the tax policy debate from experienced practitioners who have a more balanced view of the relationship between the private and public sectors. We get way too much loaded rhetoric from business lobbyists and "career academics" on the political left.
A few highlights from Shay's article:
 Shay urges policymakers (presumably aiming towards the political right) not to take revenue increases off the table while considering tax reform options. Shay does not advocate "millionaire surcharges" or the "Buffett Rule," whatever his personal view on those proposals. Shay primarily focuses on tax expenditures, and the opportunity to increase revenues "by eliminating tax expenditures and rationalizing the income tax base, as part of an overall plan to restore a sustainable fiscal policy." He's basically following along a trail blazed by Kleinbard, among others.
 In Shay's view, fundamental tax reform "should make the income tax code a fairer and more efficient instrument suitable for the economy of today and the future."
The objective of fundamental tax reform should be a more comprehensive income tax base that is simpler and fairer and does not make losers of domestic manufacturers and winners of video game companies with offshore intangibles.Funny how that theme keeps surfacing in discussions of fundamental tax reform. I outline the problem of "multinational princes" and "domestic paupers" in this post (discussing a tax reform proposal by Bill Parks).
 Shay gently scolds President Obama for his class warfare rhetoric:
[The President] has acknowledged a need for new revenues, but limiting shared sacrifice to those with incomes of $250,000 and above is inconsistent with rationalizing many wasteful tax expenditures that benefit middle-income earners as well as the very wealthy. In exchange for job-creating stimulus, Democrats should be open to sharing sacrifice more broadly, but without sacrificing a fair distribution of overall tax burden.Shay doesn't define a "fair distribution of the overall tax burden," but he implies that "shared sacrifice" should include tax increases on all Americans. The top 1% of taxpayers currently shoulder 37% of the total income tax burden. If deemed "fair," policymakers could aim to keep that number constant, while increasing overall revenues from the tax system. By definition, such an effort would require an increased "contribution" by the bottom 99% of taxpayers.
 Shay bluntly scolds Team Obama for its lack of leadership on tax reform. But let's face it, this administration has other priorities. President Obama focused on socializing health insurance during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Now he's focused on his 2012 re-election despite a widespread economic malaise and 9% unemployment rate. I'd wager my $100 that Team Obama will not lead us to the Promised Land of Fundamental Tax Reform.