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The Process Of Persuasion: How Politicians Sell Tax Policies


US President Ronald W. Reagan speaking at a fundraiser for Senate Candidate Linda Chavez’s campaign. … [+] Getty Images Politicians are in the business of selling things: policies, ideas, parties — even themselves, once Election Day rolls around. To help close the deal, they deploy a range of experts, including pollsters, speechwriters, lobbyists, and high-level strategists.

Unraveling the process of political salesmanship is no small task; it provides (plausibly) gainful employment to thousands of journalists and scholars in a range of disciplines, from political science to linguistics to history and beyond.

Some of these explicators have focused particularly on the selling of tax reform. The history of federal taxation is marked by long stretches of relative continuity punctuated by moments of dramatic change. What makes those moments of change possible? How do politicians sell tax reform?

Typically, wars have been catalysts for transformative change in the nation’s revenue system: The great tax regimes of U.S. fiscal history have all been defined by wartime fiscal crises. These crises can make it easier to sell a set of tax policies, at least when the war itself enjoys broad popular support.

But what happens if we loosen the definition of transformative change just a bit? What […]

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