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Photo by Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0

Members of Penn College Republicans and other campus groups filled the seats of Amado Recital Hall at Irvine Auditorium on Oct. 18  to hear about tax reform from a conservative Washington insider.  

Alex Brill, an economics scholar who held a position on the White House Council of Economic Advisors, talked to students on the upcoming possibilities in United States tax policy.

The event was sponsored by the Undergraduate Economics Society, the American Enterprise Institute Council at Penn and Penn College Republicans with the goal of shedding light on upcoming Republican legislation on taxes. 

“After the health care debacle this summer, pretty much the entire Republican leadership —  Paul Ryan in the house, McConnell in the senate and the White House — have committed to tax reform,” Wharton junior and College Republicans Political Director Owen O’Hare said. “That’s kind of what they’re hoping to be their big legislative achievement this year.”

Brill explained that it might be the right moment for tax reform. He expected a bipartisan bill to emerge early next year to serve as the latest in a cycle of tax policies that should help stimulate the US economy, but added that he isn’t holding his breath 

“It’s been 31 years since lawmakers did something called tax reform,” Brill said.

Addressing the public’s concerns on equity in the tax code is nearly impossible for politicians, Brill said, especially when they are forced to choose who will receive a deduction and who will manage without.

“Tax reform is about engaging in a set of changes in tax revenue that will cause winners to be losers and losers to be winners,” he said.

From an academic perspective, Brill said he views tax reform as a representation of a system that doesn’t sacrifice revenue to collect taxes while simultaneously balancing the needs of every income bracket.

College junior Ryan Snyder and Wharton sophomore Worth Gentry said they appreciated a conservative perspective on campus, and especially one grounded in economic theory and factual evidence.

Brill, who is also a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed that national conversation on tax reform could be more “fact-based." He added that he hoped to help make the community involved in taxes with the goal of encouraging “people [to] think that public policy is important.”

“You can disagree with me on everything,” Brill said.  “But if you walk away and get a little more involved in government, in public policy, that’s a win for me.”