Tax expert Edward Kleinbard is not afraid to get political.

He openly supports a universal health care plan, believing there is a reason all other developed countries rely on a national single-payer system.

"We impose a viciously regressive tax on ourselves in the form of private insurance," said Kleinbard.

Kleinbard's remarks came as he delivered the keynote speech "From Tax Policy to Social Insurance" at the New York State Bar Association's Tax Section luncheon on Tuesday, Jan. 28 as part of Annual Meeting. 

Kleinbard is the Robert C. Packard Trustee Chair in Law at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law and a fellow at the Century Foundation. He was one of four individuals honored as 2016 International Tax Person of the Year by the nonpartisan policy organization Tax Analysts. He is also the author of the book, "We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money." 

Previously, Kleinbard served as chief of staff of the U.S. Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation - the nonpartisan tax resource to Congress. Before that, he was a partner in the New York office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton for over 20 years.

During his speech, he promoted his next book "What's Luck Got to Do With It?" He said the book is likely due out next year. He then began to discuss some of the insight he provides in the book, joking that he was "doing a John Bolton here."

"Like gravity, bad brute luck is a universal force that cannot be turned off," Kleinbard said. "We do not choose the lives into which we are born - not our parents, not our personal attributes, nor our health. 

"Our public policies underestimate the handprint of these existential adverse fortuities," continued Kleinbard. "By relying too much on private resources to fund education and health, we dishonor equality of opportunity because those born to comfort are overendowed with human capital relative to other kids." 

Kleinbard said social insurance is the way to mitigate these existential adverse fortuities, as private insurance does for auto accidents. Social insurance as a product, like healthcare, responds to adverse selection that private markets cannot absorb. Further, he said social insurance as a metaphoric response to the adverse fortuities "justifies much more vigorous public investment in education, the gateway to equality of opportunity."

The luncheon is typically the largest single event at Annual Meeting. However, this year, despite over 930 attendees, it was surpassed by the return of NYSBA's gala dinner on Jan. 30 where nearly 1,000 members attended.

New Tax Chair
In other business, the 2,000-plus member Tax Section named Hughes Hubbard partner Andrew Braiterman as its new chair. 

Braiterman is chair of the firm's tax practice and has been advising clients for nearly 40 years. His practice emphasizes the tax aspects of domestic and international mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, and aviation finance. He also represents clients on international tax planning, tax issues relating to bankruptcy and debt restructuring, and disputes with federal and state taxing authorities. 

He previously served as vice chair, second vice chair and secretary of the Tax Section. He has been a member of the section's executive committee since 2006.

Deborah L. Paul, a partner in the Tax Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York, spent the past year as chair of the Tax Section.