Jim Hartung

For over 80 years, systems engineering has helped America
lead in science, technology, industry, and business.

Now, systems engineering can help us address our most difficult
social, economic, envronmental, and political problems.

Rational Tax Reform: Using the Systems Engineering Process to Fix America's Broken Tax System

Rational Tax Reform

Rational Tax Reform
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America’s tax system is a mess—and our political system is broken. This book describes how to fix both using systems engineering, the process engineers use to develop complex products such as aircraft and spacecraft.

Rational Tax Reform uses systems engineering to develop a comprehensive nonpartisan tax reform proposal that:

  • Balances the federal budget, funds universal health care, and restores Social Security to financial health without increasing the burden on taxpayers
  • Simplifies the tax code and makes it fairer by eliminating all itemized deductions and most tax credits, tax preferences, and loopholes
  • Stimulates economic growth by decreasing tax rates and replacing the corporate income tax with a more efficient value-added tax
  • Includes features to control government spending, address climate change, reduce political corruption, improve the education system, and increase infrastructure investment

The proposed tax reform is only one example of many possible alternatives—yet it clearly illustrates how SE could enable rational, enlightened, and nonpartisan tax reform.

Rational Tax Reform also describes how systems engineering can help bridge the partisan divide, improve America's political system, and address our most serious problems.

This book was written before the Covid-19 pandemic and the George Floyd killing, so these events are not explicitly discussed in the book. Nevertheless, systems engineering is an excellent process for developing "systems solutions" for difficult and interrelated problems such as those illuminated by these events.

Systems engineering can be used by anyone to address any problem, but it is most useful for addressing complex problems where the best solution is not obvious.

Why Read This Book?

The last major bipartisan tax reform was enacted in 1986, more than 30 years ago. Since then, many politicians, policymakers, and think tanks have developed bipartisan tax reform proposals. None have been enacted. So what makes the ideas in this book any different?

Rational Tax Reform proposes a totally new approach (SE) to achieve nonpartisan tax reform. This approach has two major advantages. First, SE enables development of a better tax reform proposal. Second, SE provides Congress with a systemmatic process to improve upon this proposal and enact nonpartisan tax reform.

You should read this book if you are interested in (1) how SE can fix America’s broken tax system, or (2) how SE can address other urgent social, economic, and political problems beyond tax reform. The following comments from reviewers are offered to help you decide if this book is for you.

Reviewer Comments

“This book is clear and lucid. It succeeds beautifully in demonstrating how rationalizing one part of the system (the tax system) can be the key to addressing many other vexing problems such as health care, social inequality, and climate change. I see lots of opportunities to deploy the same SE approach to other social systems.” — Dr. Saif Benjaafar, Distinguished McKnight Professor and Head, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Minnesota College of Engineering and Science

“I am seriously impressed with this book and the proposed tax reform. I like the practical, nonpartisan SE approach to tax writing. I strongly agree with the tax reform proposal except for a few small differences. Now let’s get these ideas to tax writers, federal and state.” — T. R. Reid, New York Times bestselling author of A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System and The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care

“The SE process is so powerful and logical, I wonder why politicians are not already using it to develop government policy.” — Stephanie Hoogstad

“The proposed tax reform is ingenious. Send a copy to the president and every member of Congress.” — Suzie Housley

“This book infuses practicality, logic, and dynamism into the normally dry subject of tax reform. It makes tax reform interesting.” — Kit Duncan

"Rational Tax Reform offers a clear and realistic method to tackle even the largest of problems. The tax code is not a monster with fangs. It can easily be a family pet once we teach it some manners.” — Marni MacRae

“The proposed tax reform and SE process will appeal to a wide range of taxpayers across the political spectrum because it is fact-based and data-driven rather than ideological.”  — Akinola Osebi James

“This book makes the often cloudy subject of tax reform completely transparent. The plan makes sense. SE is everything our country needs right now. All Americans should read this book.” — Whitney Baer