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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Len Burman Returns as Director of Tax Policy Center

The Urban Institute announced yesterday that Donald Marron, the director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, will become the Institute's first director of economic policy initiatives in June. Len Burman, former director of the Tax Policy Center and currently a professor at Syracuse University, will return to lead the center he co-founded in 2002

MarronDonald Marron, Director of Economic Policy Initiatives
A former member of the Council of Economic Advisers and former acting director of the Congressional Budget Office, Marron has led the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center since 2010. This year, he sought a new perch that would enable him to explore a broader range of economic and fiscal policy issues across the Urban Institute. In his new role, Marron will direct a diverse portfolio of research initiatives. His work will deepen the Urban Institute’s engagement with the policy community and bring the Institute’s independent and rigorous research to new audiences.

“Donald Marron has wide-ranging interests and an unparalleled ability to explain clearly complex economic concepts and analyses,” said Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute. “In his new role, he can design cross-cutting research, drawing upon the breadth of the organization’s expertise and analytic tools, to inform high-level policymakers tackling the biggest spending, revenue, and growth issues facing the nation.”

BurmanLen Burman, Director, Tax Policy Center
Burman served as director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center from 2002 to 2009, and he has remained an Urban Institute affiliated scholar while at Syracuse. After working on the Tax Reform Act at the U.S. Treasury Department in the 1980s, Burman went on to the Congressional Budget Office. He later served as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury in 1998.

“In searching for a successor to Donald, we were thrilled to entice back TPC’s very own co-founder, Len Burman,” continued Wartell. ... Urban Institute Trustee Erskine Bowles has described TPC as a “national treasure,” noting that the Simpson-Bowles Commission recently relied upon the center for assistance in developing the tax elements of its deficit reduction plans. ...

Burman noted, “Working as a scholar at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University for the past four years, I’ve developed a new appreciation for how TPC’s clear, timely, and impartial analysis informs the tax policy debate outside the Beltway. I’m excited about rejoining the fantastic TPC team at a time when tax policy is sure to be front and center on the national nd state and local agendas." ...

Other original members of the TPC leadership team will remain in their current roles: co-directors Bill Gale (Brookings Institution) and Eric Toder (Urban Institute) as well as Urban Institute Fellow Eugene Steuerle.

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So, the ultra-left Tax Policy Center has finally succumbed to my TaxProf Blog comments griping about it and has hired a seemingly fair-minded director in Len Burman. It was only a matter of time.

Posted by: Woody | Mar 21, 2013 10:37:18 AM

Woody, TPC was never ultra-left. They started near the center and moved to the "party line" left in recent years. They never went left of the Democrats' party line. I believe that Len will get the TPC's original credibility back by gently guiding TPC authors who lack nonpartisan perspective.

Balanced selection of topics is the number one requirement, followed by balanced statements of conclusions. Both have been lacking recently, but both were present in TPC's earlier years.

Len is a progressive centrist at heart, but he takes the time to understand the other side's arguments rather than accepting caricatures drawn by opponents. Great analysis of partisan issues must be built on complete understanding of each side's objectives and fears. Otherwise it's just more partisan noise, of which we already have a surfeit. Len can ensure that TPC's authors never caricature either side, and that the conclusions presented by TPC cannot be disputed because they were presented misleadingly or incompletely.

I look forward eagerly to a return to using my simple rule: If Len Burman wrote a tax paper, you can take it to the bank. It's correct and complete.

I would like to caution the new TPC against wasting a lot of time studying proposals for comprehensive income tax reform. It's just not going to happen until there's a financial meltdown much larger than the one in 2008. As I wrote over at the Tax Analysts blog: "If I were to design a tax system to be maximally resistant to reform, I could hardly do better than today's system of low official rates with myriad phaseouts and other back-door rate kickers. If tax reform comes, it will not be at the insistence of the public. It will be over their loud objection."

Posted by: AMTbuff | Mar 22, 2013 4:41:44 PM

AMTbuff, a positive comment that you had previously made on Len Burman was the catalyst for me deciding to buy a book that he co-authored.

On leanings of the TPC, I understand the distinction you are making between its philosophy and politics, but I see them as the same. An organization that actively worked to re-elect an ultra-left President by smearing his opponent is in the same spread-the-wealth, major-transformation-of-America camp as that President.

I'm glad that Len Burman is objective in his approaches. Maybe he'll be stong enough to withdraw previous studies of the TPC that were biased and/or wrong.

I always appreciate your comments.

Posted by: Woody | Mar 22, 2013 8:33:17 PM