What Defeated a Negative Income Tax?: Constructing a Causal Explanation of a Politically Controversial Historical Event

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In 1969 the Nixon Administration proposed to reform welfare with a negative income tax (NIT) that made none of those on welfare worse off in income terms. Three years of intense congressional struggle ensued at the end which the Nixon NIT welfare reform died. This paper studies that conflict with the political methodologist's logistic regression models of votes on bills in Congress, and the political historian's analysis of primary and secondary textual sources. Employing the results of its study, the paper constructs a narrative that embeds a causal explanation of the defeat of the Nixon NIT proposal in its story. That narrative focuses on the political ideas of key liberal Senator Fred Harris (D, Oklahoma) because previous narratives have neglected them. The paper concludes with a critique of some of the causal claims embedded in previous narratives of the defeat of the Nixon NIT proposal.

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