As our united effort to overhaul the tax code continues this fall, we are reminded of what took place 31 years ago when President Ronald Reagan signed the last comprehensive tax reform bill into law on Oct. 22, 1986.
President Reagan’s observations at the bill-signing ceremony bear a striking resemblance to the situation we face today. Despite the inevitable challenges and disagreements ahead of us, just as President Reagan encountered, we must stay the course to finally provide the tax relief Americans need and deserve.
The following are President Ronald Reagan's remarks on signing the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
"In a moment I’ll be sitting at that desk, taking up a pen, and signing the most sweeping overhaul of our tax code in our nation’s history."
"… The journey’s been long, and many said we'd never make it to the end. But as usual the pessimists left one thing out of their calculations: the American people. They haven’t made this the freest country and the mightiest economic force on this planet by shrinking from challenges. They never gave up. And after almost three years of commitment and hard work, one headline in the Washington Post told the whole story: 'The Impossible Became the Inevitable' and the dream of America’s fair-share tax plan became a reality."
"When I sign this bill into law, America will have the lowest marginal tax rates and the most modern tax code among major industrialized nations, one that encourages risk-taking, innovation, and that old American spirit of enterprise. We’ll be refueling the American growth economy with the kind of incentives that helped create record new businesses and nearly 11.7 million jobs in just 46 months. Fair and simpler for most Americans, this is a tax code designed to take us into a future of technological invention and economic achievement, one that will keep America competitive and growing into the 21st century."
"But for all tax reform’s economic benefits, I believe that history will record this moment as something more: as the return to the first principles. This country was founded on faith in the individual, not groups or classes, but faith in the resources and bounty of each and every separate human soul. Our founding fathers designed a democratic form of government to enlist the individual's energies and fashioned a Bill of Rights to protect its freedoms. And in so doing, they tapped a wellspring of hope and creativity that was to completely transform history."
"… In the last 20 years we've witnessed an expansion and strengthening of many of our civil liberties, but our economic liberties have too often been neglected and even abused. We protect the freedom of expression of the author, as we should, but what of the freedom of expression of the entrepreneur, whose pen and paper are capital and profits, whose book may be a new invention or small business? What of the creators of our economic life, whose contributions may not only delight the mind but improve the condition of man by feeding the poor with new grains, bringing hope to the sick with new cures, vanishing ignorance with wondrous new information technologies?"
"… And now that we’ve come this far, we cannot, and we will not, allow tax reform to be undone with tax rate hikes. We must restore certainty to our tax code and our economy. And I’ll oppose with all my might any attempt to raise tax rates on the American people, and I hope that all here will join with me to make permanent the historic progress of tax reform. I think all of us here today know what a Herculean effort it took to get this landmark bill to my desk. That effort didn’t start here in Washington, but began with the many thinkers who have struggled to return economics to its classical roots – to an understanding that ultimately the economy is not made up of aggregates like government spending and consumer demand, but of individual men and women, each striving to provide for his family and better his or her lot in life."