Bush Never Fixed Tax Code "Mess"

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
On this final tax filing day of George Bush's presidency, his campaign promise to fix the "complicated mess" that is the U.S. Tax Code remains unfulfilled.

In 2004, he ran for re-election asserting that the American people deserve – and the U.S. economy demands – "a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system."

He used his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention that year to decry the tax code as "a complicated mess, filled with special interest loopholes, saddling our people with more than six billion hours of paperwork and headache every year."

He promised that in his second term, he would "lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code."

A couple of weeks before his Inauguration, he established a Presidential panel to advise him on ways to reform the tax code. It reported its recommendations on Nov. 1, 2005. But its ideas have been gathering dust ever since.

The secretary of the treasury was supposed to evaluate the panel's report and send it on to President Bush, but it never happened.

Mr. Bush has rarely mentioned the issue in his second term. Higher up on his agenda was his program to overhaul the Social Security system. That effort failed. He also was unable to win approval of his plan to "reform" the nation's Immigration laws. And after the Democrats won control of Congress, tax code simplification fell off the radar.

"It doesn't appear that there is much appetite in Congress right now to address major tax reform," says White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto.

He says the President's tax priority in his final year it "trying to prevent Congress from raising taxes" by making his tax cuts permanent.

President Bush is not the first to fail at enacting tax code reform. Jimmy Carter ran for the White House in 1976 calling the tax code "a disgrace to the human race." The federal tax code has only become more complex in the years since.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.