Tax reform's the law: a `Br'er Congress' tale
BR'ER President woke up one morning and he sez to himself, sezee, ``Br'er Congress is gettin' tired of watchin' the deficit rise, and of wrestlin' with the Budget. I'm gonna distract him by proposin' he fight with Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code.'' Br'er President, he set Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code, down beside the road and goes back to his house. Soon Br'er Congress calls and sez, ``Br'er Pres, what can I do for you today?''
Br'er President sez, sezee, ``I'm sure glad you called. I just saw Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code, sittin' beside the road just lookin' for trouble. I suggest you go down there and whip him into shape. Rearrange his features, as they say. But don't change his overall size. When you get done, I want him to be revenue neutral.''
Since Br'er Congress had nothing better to do, he headed down the road, as Br'er President had suggested. He hadn't far to go, for over the first rise in the road he spotted Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code, sitting on a big rock at the side of the road. Old Tar Baby looked satisfied with himself. He was just sitting there with his hands on his stomach.
Br'er Congress drew up in front of Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code, and he sez to him, ``Put up your dukes, 'cause I'm goin' to whip you into shape.'' Old Tar Baby didn't say anything or make a move. He just stayed where he was.
Then Br'er Congress drew back his right arm, closed his fist, and sez, ``I'm goin' to knock the IRAs out of you.'' And with that he let go with his right hand and hit Old Tar Baby on the left shoulder. Old Tar Baby didn't flinch. But when Br'er Congress went to pull back his right hand, he couldn't. It was stuck fast to Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code's, left shoulder.
Br'er Congress sez, ``Let me go or I'll hit you with my left hand and punch out your loopholes.''
Old Tar Baby didn't say anything and Br'er Congress hit Old Tar Baby with his left hand, which stuck fast to Old Tar Baby's right shoulder, same as Br'er Congress's right hand was stuck to Tar Baby's left shoulder.
Br'er Congress was getting madder than before, sezee, ``If you don't let go of my hands, I'm goin' to butt you right in the chest, where you is holdin' all those tax shelters, and tell the people to have nothin' to do with you.'' Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code, he didn't let go Br'er Congress's hands, so Br'er Congress butted him right in the chest trying to crush those tax shelters. When Br'er Congress tried to pull back his head so as to butt Old Tar Baby again, he found his head was stuck fast to Old Tar Baby's chest.
Br'er Congress now could only jump up and down with his two free feet. He sez to Old Tar Baby, ``If you don't let me go, I'm goin' to kick the home-interest deduction out of you.'' And with that he kicked Old Tar Baby with his right foot, which stuck to Tar Baby's left leg.
Finally Br'er Congress was stuck at four points, with only his left foot free. Sez Br'er Congress, ``If you don't let me go, I'm goin' to really kick you. I'm goin' to kick the deduction of state and local income taxes right out of you.'' Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code, didn't let go of anything, so Br'er Congress drew back his left foot and kicked. It stuck to Old Tar Baby's right shin.
Br'er Congress pulled and pulled, and tried to hit and butt and kick Old Tar Baby. He threatened and screamed, but to no purpose.
Finally, near exhaustion, Br'er Congress sez to Old Tar Baby, ``If you let go of my right hand, I'll let you keep some IRAs.'' Old Tar Baby let go of Br'er Congress's right hand.
Then Br'er Congress sez, ``If you let go of my left hand, I'll let you keep your favorite loopholes.'' So Old Tar Baby, Internal Revenue Code, let go of Br'er Congress's left hand.
Now, sez Br'er Congress, ``If you'll let go of my head, I won't try to smash up all your tax shelters by butting you.'' Old Tar Baby let go of Br'er Congress's head.
Then Br'er Congress promised to let Old Tar Baby, Income Tax Code, keep the deduction of interest on home mortgages, even on second houses (if not homes), and to allow the deduction of state and local income taxes against federal income tax, and Old Tar Baby let go of both of Br'er Congress's feet.
About that time, Br'er President comes walking by, and he sez to Br'er Congress, ``Good work! The income tax code has been changed historically, monumentally, and radically, and it has been reformed, and recodified, and remains revenue neutral. The changes will not affect the federal deficit.''
Br'er Congress thanked the President and went on down the road, wiping the tar off his various parts, reconciled to the federal deficit.
Old Tar Baby, Income Tax Code, just sat there by the side of the road, smiling to himself and not saying anything.
Eugene J. McCarthy is the former Democratic senator from Minnesota.