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Picture by Katie Goodwin

Picture by Katie Goodwin

COMMITTEE CONFIDENTIAL. NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION. DO NOT COPY. These materials may not be released to the public from the National Archives or by the Finance Committee prior to December 31, 2064.

This warning is not from a James Bond movie nor is it from a national security intelligence briefing. This is the warning being place on Senate member submissions for tax reform.

In June the Senate Finance Committee requested Senate members to submit proposals for the portions of the tax code they would like to see preserved during tax reform. Apparently the Senate Finance Committee got so little response that they sent out a memo on July 19th stating that all submissions will be kept confidential for more than 50 years.

Last time I checked the tax code was public information and Senators were publicly elected officials. So why are proposals by publicly elected officials on a public policy matter secret? What is it that Senators fear the public seeing? If Senators were advocating preserving the mortgage deduction or tax breaks for small farmers they would want everybody to know. If their proposals were for the benefit of the country as a whole then they would proudly declare them. In fact Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has made his proposals public including copies of the letters he submitted to the Senate Finance Committee.

But the other Senate members are so fearful of public disclosure that only two electronic copies of the proposals will be kept and those will be housed on a secure password protected server. In addition all paper copies will be kept in a locked safe and only a dozen people in total will be allowed to handle the proposals. On top of that the proposals will not be disclosed to the public until December 31st, 2064. Currently the youngest member of the Senate is Chris Murphy (D-CT) who is turning 40 on August 3rd. So the youngest member of the Senate will be 91 years old when the tax reform proposals are allowed to be disclosed to the public. Quite literally they want to take this secret to the grave.

Congress recently reminded the public in regards to surveillance “If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about.” Yet tax reform requires utmost secrecy by Senators for 50 years. What are Senators hiding? Do they fear loosing votes by failing to support their constituency? Or do they fear loosing campaign contributions by failing to support their wealthy donors? Why does tax reform warrant such secrecy?

 

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