When you spend almost 4 months living in the USA as I did this winter you get to hear some pretty weird stuff. This was one of those occassions.
Al Franken is a former Senator and now a stand-up comedian again. He has returned to his roots. I head him guest hosting the Daily Show,
According to Al Franken, “the combination of stone age technology and understaffing has created a very weird situation.”
As Jesse Eisinger, a Propublica Senior reporter said, “You are more likely to be audited in the United State if you make $20,000 than if you make $500,000 a year.” Is this because Republicans think ordinary people should pay more taxes than wealthy Americans? Is it because this a very perverse form of trickle-down economics where many Americans believe that if you give money to rich people this is the best way to help poor people because that money will flow down to poor people? Or is it because the Republicans want to give their wealthy donors and cronies what they are begging for?
The reason is that the poor tax payers are low lying fruit. The less money you have the less likely it is that you can hire fancy accountants or tax lawyers to defeat the IRS claims! So why should tax auditors waste their time going after the rich when they can go after the poor! Only in America!
As one commentator said,
“The IRS does not have enough money to go head to head with the wealthy. Ultimately it is easier for them to audit low income people because it is cheap and can be done by mail and does not take a lot of time.”
Or as Franken said,
“The IRS is so understaffed that they audit poor people more than the wealthy because they just don’t have the experts to handle the most complex returns. They are going after poor people because its easier! …So how much money are we talking about in lost taxes here? According to the former head of the IRS it could be as much as $1trillion a year! The solution is a bargain. Comparatively speaking, just adequately funding the IRS so it can improve its enforcement capabilities so it can collect that extra trillion dollars…”
And of course a lot of good things could be done with an extra trillion dollars. It could be applied to the national debt. Or it could pay for universal health care. Or subsidize child care as they do in every other civilized nation. Or as Franken suggested, a trillion dollars could
“eliminate taxes completely for the bottom 90% of American households!… Or we could fund an entirely new Iraq war. And why are we the only f…..g country in the world that doesn’t have universal health care? The point is that polling shows that 93% of Americans think that it is everybody’s civic duty to pay taxes and I think you can guess who the other 7% are. So let’s make sure that we give the IRS enough resources for it to make sure that everybody does what we all should do for the right to live in this great country and make it even better if we do the rational thing and collect the taxes that people actually owe.”
Everyone should note that this is not pie-in-the-sky rosy socialism. It’s not communism. It’s not evil. It’s not even wrong. It’s just a small attempt to get people to actually pay the taxes that are lawfully owing to the government so it can pay for the things that are important to us. Like social security. Like schools. Or the armed forces. Or police. Or fire fighters. Or health inspectors. A lot of the things we get from the government are good and important. Everyone who can afford to pay taxes should be required to pay their fair share. Even the rich! Even Republican cronies! Not just the poor suckers who have no one fighting for them. This is just elementary justice.