Tax expert calls for breaking stereotypes

Jacqueline Wong gives an interview to on November 2. Photo: Wu Jie/

Tax specialist shared her view on America’s current tax system and economic crisis during an interview with the on November 2 in Washington D.C.

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Jacqueline Wong, a tax adviser for Barack Obama during his first term candidacy who also helped Obama complete the transition from George W. Bush Administration at the Treasury Department, talked about her efforts to promote Asian community in the US.

Complex tax code

Wong: There is a huge difference between the candidates as to the tax policy. It may sound similar broadly, but in detail there are things that set them apart.

For example, everyone is in favor of simplifying the tax code, which is way too complex and has too many ambiguities. It takes too much time to figure out how to comply with the tax rules. There is also an acknowledgement that America needs a fairly radical tax reform because the existing tax rules make it hard to implement new tax policies.

From Democratic perspective, Republicans tend to reduce the tax rates for wealthy individuals. While Democrats argue for progressive tax policies, which means you pay in accordance with what you are able to pay. Thus lower-income people don’t have to pay as much as other people in the progressive system. Neither of the candidates have really talked about reducing taxes very much because of a crippling national debt against the backdrop of an economic downturn.

It is more important to make sure the economy doesn’t go into a tailspin before worrying about the debt. Because if there is a downturn in the economy, people’s income is lower, and so is the tax revenue. That causes budget deficit, which leads to national debt.

Former President Bill Clinton was interested in balancing the budget so as to reduce the national debt. When President Bush took office, the national debt shot up because of the tax cuts, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and growing defense expenditure. But a huge amount of the debt resulted from the tax cuts.

The Obama Administration’s measures to stimulate the economy were arguably effective. The economy continues to recover slowly and Congress needs to build a consensus to avoid sequestration and enact more effective measures to reduce budget deficit.

Obama has proposed that for every $1 of tax revenue increase, he will provide for $2.5 reduction in spending. Thus we reduce the budget by $1.5. That is one way to deal with the budget deficit.

Presidential Election

Wong: Obviously I will vote for Obama as I’m a registered Democrat for all of my life, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes vote for Republicans or independent candidates.

I’ve been looking very carefully at Mitt Romney. I’m a little disappointed that the emphasis hasn’t been on improving the job situation, with the unemployment rate has edged up to 7.9 percent according to a latest assessment by the Labor Department.

Will the businessman be able to do things better? Running a government is different from running a corporation no matter how large the corporation is. As things progressed, certainly on the social issues, I could not agree with candidate Romney.

Currently, the big problem is that members of the Congress are not willing to compromise, which is thought to be a dirty word by legislators. I know you have a point of view that is 180 degrees apart from my view. But the point is let’s find something in the middle, something that is most important to both parties.

Breaking stereotypes

Wong: Discrimination dates back to 1880s when the Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted and it still exists but in a subtle way like any other stereotype. I tried to tell Asian Americans not to develop a victim mentality but to make sure we work as hard as we can to change that image, forcing people to accept that Asian Americans are 100 percent Americans.

I encourage children to enter into more public offices, like a school board or Senate because it is a very valuable for visibility. We need to show by examples that we are Americans.

Education is the top concern for Asian Americans. To succeed in America or anywhere else in the world does not only depend on how smart you are but also about who you know. But for the immigrant group, who you know isn’t enough to get anywhere because you don’t know powerful people. So you have to enlarge your connections on the basis of your talent through the education system.

There are stereotypes that all Asians are smart and get A grades in schools. When it comes to work, stereotypes persist that Asians can’t lead, so they should be the workers. I want to eradicate those thoughts even if it is in small number of places.

The fact that China is now being criticized on a number of issues during the presidential campaign means that China is now a visible player. It is successful enough and has to be taken into account. It is like Apple and Samsung. They criticize each other because they are biggest competitors. China is really growing up in economic strength.

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