Remembering Don Lubick


Don Lubick, who handed away yesterday at age 95, was a rare public servant who was among the many final dwelling hyperlinks to the beginnings of recent tax coverage. I don’t consider anybody served longer in senior Treasury tax coverage positions than Don.

Remarkably, he started his authorities profession within the Kennedy Administration and concluded it as a member of Barack Obama’s transition crew. Folks typically are shocked to be taught that Don was a Republican when he first got here to Washington since he spent a lot of his profession working for Democrats.

He was first recruited to Treasury by the legendary Stanley Surrey, who requested him to function Tax Legislative Counsel. Don stayed although the start of the Johnson Administration, then returned to personal legislation follow in his hometown of Buffalo.

Initially of the Carter Administration in 1977, he was requested to rejoin Treasury, this time by one other legend, Larry Woodworth. Don served initially as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Laws. However after Larry’s dying in late 1977, Don took his place as Assistant Secretary for Tax Coverage.

Serving to different nations

Within the late Nineteen Eighties and early Nineties, Don and one other tax coverage legend, Ward Hussey, helped the Dominican Republic reform its tax legal guidelines. Later, they wrote Fundamental World Tax Code and Commentary, a template for a well-functioning tax code. Within the mid-Nineties, Don directed Treasury’s Workplace of Worldwide Tax Help to Growing International locations. There, he helped Japanese European and Central Asian nations that had damaged from the Soviet orbit develop fashionable tax techniques.

In 1996, he was requested to return to Washington to serve but once more—this time as President Clinton’s Assistant Secretary for Tax Coverage. My TPC colleagues Len Burman and Eric Toder have been his deputies. Over time, Don mentored scores of Treasury staffers who would go on to change into among the many nation’s prime tax legal professionals and public finance economists.  

A decade later, he took one final tour of public service as a member of Obama’s transition crew.

As my TPC colleague Gene Steuerle wrote in 2018, Don at all times was “guided by primary ideas of tax coverage: effectivity, simplicity, and the idea of horizontal fairness—the concept equals ought to be handled equally below the legislation.” And he was a robust believer in progressivity.

An exquisite instructor

I first bought to know Don through the Carter Administration, after I was overlaying the Treasury as a younger reporter. Reality be advised, Don didn’t love speaking to journalists. However he was a beautiful instructor. He was not the man to ask in regards to the inner-most secrets and techniques of the Carter Treasury. His discretion didn’t enable for that. Nor did he endure fools, or silly questions. However he typically took the time to assist me perceive what makes good tax legislation.

Gene—who labored for Don as a younger economist—calls him “one of the vital devoted public servants I’ve ever identified. And his graciousness prolonged to the tennis court docket, for these us who had the privilege of enjoying with him.” 

Tax coverage within the Carter Administration typically was messy. Don battled for the very best decisions. Generally he gained. Generally he didn’t. Don’s nice good friend Stu Eizenstat recounted to Gene in 2018 that the one time Don ever learn congressional testimony verbatim was when he needed to defend some misguided power tax credit.

A public servant

As somebody who began his profession as a Republican and comfortably labored for 4 Democratic presidents, Don understood the worth of bipartisanship. His impatience with silly questions typically was tried throughout his many lengthy hours testifying on Capitol Hill. However Don constructed robust relationships with lawmakers of each events. And everybody, even those that disagreed with him, revered his data of tax legislation and his principled view of it.

Since 2016, the Tax Coverage Heart has sponsored an annual tax coverage symposium in Don’s honor. At a time when public service is being discounted by so many, it is very important keep in mind a coverage idealist who repeatedly answered authorities’s name. At vital monetary sacrifice, Don labored tirelessly to make a greater tax code and serve the general public good.

He’ll be missed by his many associates and his tennis companions. And, in fact, by his household, particularly Susan, his spouse of greater than 60 years.


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