Al Franken is a disgraced Democratic Senator from Minnesota. Not really. He did a bad thing. He made inappropriate jokes about a sleeping woman and pretended he was going to assault her. It was stupid. He apologized, admitted it, and resigned as a Senator. No Republican would have even considered resigning under such circumstances. After leaving the Senate he returned to his professional career of being a comedian. In that capacity he appeared as a guest host on the Daily Show after Trevor Noah resigned.
On his last day as interim host he had some fine things to say about taxes. He said he would show us why taxes are good. That is a pretty big task. But he did a pretty good job.
He said “it is tax season, or as Donald Trump would say, ‘Get off my back already.’” Trump famously did not pay taxes for years and bragged about it. He said not paying taxes showed he was smart. In the minds of many conservatives, that is entirely true. There is nothing wrong with avoiding taxes by legal means. At least we can’t really blame anyone for not paying taxes that one can lawful avoid. Tax evasion, which means unlawfully avoiding taxes is a different matter entirely.
As soon as the Republicans took over in the House of Representatives after the US mid-term election in 2020 they announced that they would be taking at run at the Internal Revenue Service (‘IRS’) in the US, which is widely seen by the American conservatives as a subversive organization because it tries to enforce American tax laws, and conservatives—at least so ultra-right-wing conservatives believe. The believe taxes are immoral. As a result, anything one does to avoid paying taxes is justified. The Republicans basically said—in almost these terms, that they would be emasculating the IRS so that their cronies and supporters who supported their election campaigns would not be required to pay so many taxes. Taxes were for other people to pay. Taxes on their view are not for elites and wealthy people to pay. Taxes are for the common people to pay. It is hardly an exaggeration to say this. Many Conservatives actually believe this. How do I know this? I have listened to them! Their own words make it clear.
In Biden’s recent Inflation Reduction Act there was a provision that $80 million would be added to the funding of the IRS to hire new employees and acquire new technology to replace their ancient technology. Conservatives think that is a waste of money in the US. It is not. It is vital to do that to support lawful government. As Franken said,
“Better enforcement of tax laws means more money for the many, many things government does such as social security, Medicare, infrastructure, not to mention feces scraped off the Capitol walls by the Proud Boys. Clearly the new funding is long overdue. In addition, to pay for immensely popular programs it will help to reduce the deficit, so everybody has got to be happy about it. Everybody right?”
Of course not! That is what people would think in a rational world. This is not a rational world. Here is what Republican Representative Bob Good said, “Democrats want to spend 80 million dollars to hire 87,000 armed IRS agents to terrorize Americans.” Republican Senator Rick Scott from Florida said this, “They want to hire 87,000 IRS agents that can use deadly force to go after America families.” Republican Senator John Kennedy said this, “They want to turn the IRS into the Gestapo!”
A Fox commentator on the Tucker Carlson show said this about Biden’s efforts: “A little like James Bond except rather than hunting down evil maniacs they hunt down and kill middle class taxpayers that don’t pay enough.”
Florida Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida said this on social media: Gaetz asked: “Chaos at the IRS where they are gearing up for something, like, war in our country? Is Nancy Pelosi trying to start a nuclear war in Asia? Is there an effort by the National Security State to stoke violence in a civil war here at home? We certainly hope not.”
Of course, the Republicans are just trying to stoke the fears of the American electorate, again, by suggesting getting wealthy Americans to pay their lawful taxes is federal “overreach.”
Al Franken asked, “Do these Republicans think that if you make a mistake on your tax return the IRS will come to your door, break down, and gun down your entire family?”
Franken said the new money is to be used to restore funding to the IRS that was aggressively cut by Republicans in Congress in 2011. Since that was done the IRS audit rate has dropped almost 60%. During that time the number of IRS agents has dropped to levels of 1954 when the US population was about half of what it is now. 1954, he said, “was when paediatricians started prescribing menthol cigarettes for sick children.” That last one might have been a joke. After all, Franken is now a comedian and not a politician anymore.