This essay first appeared on the digital edition of the Claremont Review of Books.
Tom Kite is PGA Tour player whose low Major total belies his resume as a player….He only led the Tour in earnings twice, but he was the second Tour player to crack $1 million in a season (1989, a year after Curtis Strange did it), he finished in the Top 20 in money 17 times, and he was the first player to accumulate $6 million, $7 million, $8 million, and $9 million in career earnings.1 Tom, although an excellent player was not Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw, Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus; names one might expect to head that list. How? He did it by having a considerably higher finishing average than other players and naturally earned more prize money as a result.
In 1960, the New York Yankees lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3 games to 4. Amongst the Yankees’ roster were future Hall of Fame Players Berra, Maris and Mantle. Still the Yankees lost despite having scored a total of 55 runs to the Pirates’ 27 runs.
These stories seem relevant to today’s political campaign rhetoric. We are told our system is corrupt. It may be; but wouldn’t it be a good thing to look at where and how? In light of the twisted language of our politically correct consciousness, which makes honest substantive discussions on issues difficult at best, it would likely be prudent to ensure my words here are clear.
Ever since our nation’s founding, we, the average citizen, have had a say in our national elections and discourse. But, aside from our votes, it has never been direct. Our votes, other than on state and local initiatives, nearly always involve our selection of someone to represent us. We delegate our political desires to someone who, hopefully, will reflect our views when they cast their votes on specific legislation.
We are not, as a political structure, a pure democracy. Never have been, although it could be argued that we have moved more in that direction. Our founders did not trust a pure democracy: structurally, we are a representative republic.
“what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
– Federalist No. 51, James Madison
As Franklin, replying to a woman who asked as he left the Constitutional Convention, “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?,” stated, “A republic . . . if you can keep it.”
Note Madison states the obvious: government is necessary due to the flaws of humanity generally. Not that people are evil per se (though some most certainly are – Hitler & Stalin come to mind), but that self interest is a universal human characteristic. Yet, government, established to prevent individual self interest from becoming anarchy or rule of the jungle, is an organization run by people. So how do you prevent the very self interest government is set up to protect against from becoming a tool of those who work in government?
A republic. A pure democracy is essentially mob rule: 50%, plus one negates the 50% less 1 in all matters. That is law of the jungle, lynch mob governance. A republic on the other hand is a layered form of democracy that attempts to mitigate the aggregation of political power. This form is still imperfect because people are still people.
I’ve recounted all of this because we’re being told nearly every day how corrupt the delegate system is. When, in truth, if any one cared to go beyond the railings and look into the process, it is actually a full demonstration of the principles of our founders’ efforts to keep us from being our own worst enemy. How?
First, the delegate selection is NOT controlled, at least in one political party’s structure1, by one centralized entity or small group of elites. Each state has it own rules, means and methods. This means that no one person or small group can control the outcome. A successful candidate must be able to navigate many different process rules, from state to state. It is much the same as a business in one state seeking to expand its offices to another state – they have to look at how the laws, taxes, etc., impact how they conduct business in order to successfully operate there.
This multi-faceted, variable process is accidentally brilliant. Accidentally because the states themselves and the state party structures were set up independently, over a period of decades, and through their own localized self interest developed whatever delegate process they thought would serve their own constituents best. Each of these statewide party representatives are individuals who got involved in the process because they wanted to influence the outcome however they could.
Perfect? Not at all. But it does keep political power less concentrated and more diverse. And that benefits us all.
Confusing? Yes. Corrupt? Not likely; it is just too diversified, too disconnected for full centralized control. Those who argue for pure democracy would do well to recognize the dangers of mob rule. Is that what you really want? How long would our society survive if that were how we decided things?
Don’t like the outcomes? Get involved. But regurgitating easy and disingenuous slogans which tend only to stoke emotional fervor is destructive. It is the very thing that lead to the rise of some of history’s most wretched atrocities. One only need look to 1789 France to appreciate the horror of the mob. Our elected officials, particularly in the last three election cycles, have not been as representative as many had hoped they would be as to the direction of the country, the size, scale and scope of government’s influence in our daily lives. But to allow that disappointment and frustration to literally blow up the layered system meant to protect us from ourselves is precisely what some advocate for – an utter collapse of the system allowing for who knows what.
It should be noted that what makes government necessary is at the same time the very thing that requires government be restrained and limited in size, scale and scope. Otherwise, we cease being even the imperfect representative republic. The Constitution acknowledges the imperfections of humanity and attempts to allow each of us to enjoy individual liberty to pursue life as we envision it. It seeks to protect our God-given, unalienable rights by preventing each of us from using political power to our own advantage over one another. And while, we’ve done considerable damage to that bulwark, it is not yet fully lost.
But, if the tone and language, accompanied by blind, emotional outrage and verbal assaults are any indication, we could inadvertently usher in that which disassembles the very thing that ensures each and everyone of us are able to continue being a free people, to enjoy life as we would pursue it.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin
- PGA Tour Career Money Leaders History
- The Democratic Party delegate process has what are known as “super delegates”. These delegates are solely controlled and assigned by the DNC directly to the candidate the Party decides, not the voters. CNN interview DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz explaining this: https://youtu.be/w5llLIKM9Yc
April 20, 2016
Back in 2011, I shared a video that mocked libertarians by claiming that Somalia was their ideal no-government paradise.
I pointed out, of course, that the argument was silly. Sort of like claiming that North Korea is the left’s version of policy paradise.
But the video was very clever, and I’m more than willing to disseminate anti-libertarian humor if it’s clever and well done.
Some folks on the left, however, confuse satire with serious argument.
Consider the recent New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof. He wants his readers to think that advocates of small government somehow should be saddled with the blame for the dysfunctional nightmare of South Sudan. Seriously.
After hearing Republican presidential candidates denounce big government and burdensome regulation, I’d like to invite them to spend the night here in the midst of the civil war in South Sudan. You hear gunfire, competing with yowls of hyenas, and you don’t curse taxes. Rather, you yearn for a government that might install telephones, hire a 911 operator and dispatch the police. …Ted Cruz…is clamoring for: weaker government, less regulation… In some sense, you find the ultimate extension of all that right here.
Just in case you think I’m taking him out of context to make his argument look foolish, here are more excerpts.
No regulation! No long lines at the D.M.V., because there is no D.M.V. in the conflict areas. In practice, no taxes or gun restrictions. No Obamacare. No minimum wage. No welfare state to breed dependency. …In a place that might seem an anti-government fantasy taken to an extreme, people desperately yearn for all the burdens of government…that Americans gripe about. …One lesson of South Sudan is that government and regulations are like oxygen: You don’t appreciate them until they’re not there.
Notice how he wants to make it seem like the choice is South Sudan on one hand versus “all the burdens of government” on the other.
To be fair, Kristof does attempt a serious argument later in his column.
Two political scientists, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, argue that America’s achievements rest on a foundation of government services… “We are told that the United States got rich in spite of government, when the truth is closer to the opposite,” they write. Every country that journeyed from mass illiteracy and poverty to modernity and wealth did so, they note, because of government instruments that are now often scorned. …What we Americans excel at are our institutions. We have schools, laws, courts, police, regulators, bureaucracies, safety nets — arms of a government that is often frustrating but always indispensable. These institutions are the pillars of our standard of living. …Government, laws and taxes are a burden, indeed, but they are also the basis for civilization.
I haven’t read the work of Hacker and Pierson, but there’s been extensive research about the factors that produce economic growth. So if Hacker and Pierson are merely claiming that certain things traditionally provided by governments – such as rule of law, protection of property rights, enforcement of contracts, courts and police, and national defense – are associated with economic growth, then we’re on the same page.
But that’s an argument for a small state. Indeed, I’ve pointed that the United States (and other nations in the western world) became rich in the 1800s when there was a limited government providing these core “public goods.”
And at the time, there was virtually no redistribution. Not only in the United States, but in other developed nations as well.
Indeed, that’s the argument behind the Rahn Curve. A small amount of (properly focused) government is associated with growth. But once the public sector gets too large, then government spending saps a nation’s economy.
To conclude, perhaps there is common ground. If Kristof is willing to admit that a bloated welfare states is misguided, then I’ll be willing to say that no government can lead to South Sudan.
P.P.S. Leftists like to share the quote from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes about “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” This statement is even etched in stone at the headquarters of the internal revenue service.
What folks conveniently forget, though, is that Holmes reportedly made that statement in 1904, nine years before there was an income tax, and then again in 1927, when federal taxes amounted to only $4 billion and the federal government consumed only about 5 percent of economic output.
As I wrote in 2013, “I’ll gladly pay for that amount of civilization.”
P.P.P.S. In his column, Kristof uses Trump as a foil even more than Cruz. Since I’m unconvinced that Trump believes in smaller government, I didn’t include those excerpts (while Cruz, even while he has some views I don’t like, seems to be a sincere and principled advocate of economic liberty).
What’s especially discouraging is that Congress was on track to reduce the IRS’s bloated budget.
#LimitedGov #NoMoreBigGov #LibertyisSecurity #BigLifeSmallGov #BigGovSmallLife
March 6, 2016 by Dan Mitchell
Of the 4,000-plus columns I’ve produced since starting International Liberty in 2009, two of the most popular posts involve semi-amusing stories that highlight the failure of socialism, redistributionism, and collectivism.
“The Tax System Explained in Beer” is the third-most-viewed post of all time, and “Does Socialism Work? A Classroom Experiment” is the fourth-most-viewed post. At the risk of oversimplifying, I think these columns are popular because they succinctly capture why it’s very shortsighted and misguided to have an economic system that punishes success and rewards sloth.
For those who want details, I have dozens of columns about real-world socialist failure, looking at both the totalitarian version in places like Cuba, China, Venezuela, and North Korea, as well as the majoritarian version in nations such as France, Italy, and Greece.
And for those that want to get technical, I even have several columns explaining that the pure version of socialism involves government ownership of the means of production (government factories, state farms, etc), whereas the “democratic socialism” in Europe is actually best viewed as extreme versions of redistributionism (while the pervasive interventionism favored by the left actually is a form of fascism).
Yet notwithstanding the horrible track record of every version of socialism, we actually have a presidential candidate in America who actually calls himself a socialist. Though, as pointed out by my colleague Marian Tupy in The Atlantic, he’s more of a redistributionist than a socialist.
Socialism was an economic system where the means of production (e.g., factories), capital (i.e., banks), and agricultural land (i.e., farms) were owned by the state. …Sanders is not a typical socialist. Sure, he believes in a highly regulated and heavily taxed private enterprise, but he does not seem to want the state to own banks and make cars. …Senator Sanders is not a proponent of socialism, and that is a good thing, for true socialism, whenever and wherever it has been tried, ended in disaster.
Here’s an article about real socialism by Mark Perry that’s more than 20 years old, but its analysis is just as accurate today as it was in 1995.
Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery. …Socialism does not work because it is not consistent with fundamental principles of human behavior. …it is a system that ignores incentives. …A centrally planned economy without market prices or profits, where property is owned by the state, is a system without an effective incentive mechanism to direct economic activity. By failing to emphasize incentives, socialism is a theory inconsistent with human nature and is therefore doomed to fail.
Ben Domenech, writing for Commentary, analyzes the current version of socialism, which – particularly in the (feeble) minds of young people – is simply more middle-class entitlements financed by high tax rates on evil rich people.
Sanders holds massive events populated by kids who think what he is preaching is very cool. …When did it become acceptable for Americans to back an avowed socialist? …For Americans today, the visible and unmistakable connection between socialism and totalitarianism has faded dramatically. …For America’s young, socialism’s definition isn’t to be found in the desperate, sad reality of peoples held captive by regimes that proudly declare themselves socialist. It’s more of a vague ideal… This makes it easier for someone like Sanders to say that socialism just means middle-class entitlements… It is…Barack Obama…that we have to thank for socialism’s rise in 2016. Republicans…have been describing President Obama’s domestic program as socialist… The takeaway for today’s younger voters seems to be: If everything Obama is trying to do is socialism, …then perhaps we need to go full socialist to actually get things done.
The final part of the excerpt is very insightful.
Heck, they don’t even understand the modern-day failure of socialism in Venezuela or North Korea.
To them, socialism is simply bigger government.
Which is very offensive to people who actually have suffered under socialism. Garry Kasparov, the chess champion turned Russian dissident, doesn’t mince words in his response to the Sanders crowd.
Let’s close with something amusing. Or at least ironic.
It’s the socialism version of this communism image.
And it’s something young people should think about because socialism fails every place it is tried. As Mark Perry explained, it’s grossly inconsistent with human nature.
That’s true whether we’re looking at the totalitarian version of the majoritarian version.
The latter version is preferable, of course, though the end result is still economic misery.
P.S. Here’s a very clever video that asks college kids whether they would like a socialist grading system. Unsurprisingly, they say no. Though the video was put together before Bernie Sanders attracted a cult-like following, so perhaps today’s students would answer differently.
P.P.S. Speaking of videos, I’m guessing this bit of satire won’t be very popular with Bernie’s supporters.
P.P.P.P.S. You can also use two cows to teach about socialism, as well as other theories.
There are few ideas today that seize the minds of liberals more than equality. It is the central tenet of progressive liberalism. It drives practically everything liberals do and believe in, from income equality to marriage equality. We usually think about the problem as an economist or sociologist would—as in whether everyone has the same income or enjoys the same social status.
I’d like to ask a different question.
What is it about how liberals think of equality that makes them so prone to recommend authoritarian policies to achieve it—confiscatory tax policies, campus speech codes, fining pastors, and the like?
As I explain in my forthcoming book, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind,” it has a lot to do with how they frame the issue. In short, they assume (at least theoretically) that any variation in how human beings fare in society, no matter how small, is more often than not an injustice. People who make less money than others are victims of economic oppression, not just people who may be willing to work less.
If a young boy suffers from gender dysphoria and wants to be treated as a girl, he is supposedly being treated unequally if a school system won’t let him enter a girl’s bathroom. Same-sex couples who don’t get legal recognition of their unions as marriages are said to be treated unequally, even though the real issue isn’t equality, but rather, as the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges made clear, a gay couple’s self-perception of dignity.
An Aggressive Approach
The first things you notice about this approach to equality are the aggressive means to achieve it. Money must be taken from some people and given to others.
You can’t force a boy into a girl’s bathroom with nice words. You need a court order. And you can’t overturn a millennia-old definition of marriage without making a fundamental change, by the majority stroke of a single Supreme Court Justice’s pen, to the Constitution.
The coercion is built into the absolute nature of the demands. We are talking about making a cultural revolution here, and nothing short of breaking lots of eggs to make the new progressive omelet is required.
I don’t use the word “authoritarian” lightly, because it has the connotation of using force. But that is the mindset of these people. Try refusing to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony, and watch the fines and court orders mount.
Try, as Ben Shapiro did, to deliver a talk at Cal State Los Angeles about how multiculturalism threatens free speech, and watch as activists block the event and the university’s president tries to cancel it. Both instances involve official coercion, and they arise from an authoritarian mindset—one in which legal force and public shaming rituals are used to suppress dissent.
A Disappearing Act
The second thing you notice is that the individual human being completely disappears. No single person is responsible for anything (unless, of course, you are a banker or conservative free speech advocate).
He or she is just an object of society, a victim, or at best a rarefied “construct” of some class, gender, or sexual preference. Morality is defined not by what we do as individual human beings, but by our political attitudes and ideology.
Do we advocate same-sex marriage and an expanded welfare state? Check, we are “good” people. Do we question these things? Check, we are bad and must be not merely opposed, but shut out of the debate.
There’s no room for dissenters, because the new morality dictates that being a good person depends on politics, not personal behavior.
Different Is Treated as the Same
Third, the progressive concept of equality depends on a total pretense. We must pretend that things that are inherently different must be treated as exactly the same.
For example, marriage has been understood for millennia as a union between and a man and a woman. To treat a same-sex couple as the equal of the traditional couple, we not only have to redefine the nature of marriage. We also have to pretend as if two very different things were the same.
The relationships between a man and a woman on the one hand, and between two people of the same gender on the other, are obviously two very different kinds of relationships, biologically and even socially. They are factually not the same things, but we must pretend as if they were. By shifting the criterion for “marriage” equality from having children to being “in love,” we have not only blurred these differences. We are now saying that the law must treat two different kinds of relationships as identical.
A similar trick of illogic happens in racial identity politics. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that black Americans should be treated equally because they are first and foremost human beings—a trait they share with all people, including whites. He didn’t claim they deserve their equal rights because they are black, which is the tendency of racial identity politics.
King hated stereotyping of any kind, and when he said he had a dream “where [black people] will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” he was making a universal claim that blacks are as individuals not at all different from white people. Their right to equality is based on their rights as individuals. He was not making any claims about black people’s group identity or demanding that blacks be treated differently; rather, he was demanding that they should be given the same exact political (read: civil) rights as whites.
King’s original vision of equality was perfectly in sync with how the Founding Fathers viewed equality. It was, as a matter of fact, taken directly from the Declaration of Independence. Its author, Thomas Jefferson, wanted a constitutional government that treats everyone equally before the law and protects the individual’s rights of everyone equally. That is what they meant by equality. Jefferson and other Founders understood instinctively that any form of government that promises to level all the social and economic conditions of society will result in authoritarian government. It’s inescapable.
The progressive approach to equality has a name. It’s called radical egalitarianism—the belief that all social and economic differences between people must be erased. As an idea, it has inspired leftist politics for centuries, from socialism to communism. But it is not an idea with which most Americans have historically been comfortable.
Until recently, that is. There it is now, front and center, in the contemporary politics of progressive liberalism. In fact, it is safe to say that it is now the dominant ideology of American liberalism.
I don’t mean to suggest that we should not be concerned at all about economic inequality in America. America does face growing economic inequality, but it is caused at least partly by the very government policies intended to fight it—namely, welfare and government regulatory policies.
Economic inequality today is less about poor people losing out than about the middle class getting squeezed between an expanding welfare state that demands more taxes from them and a rising elite of very wealthy people who can afford the higher taxes.
One thing is for sure: As the government and the courts try to force people to accept the new values of radical multicultural state, ever more authoritarian methods will be have to be used.
We can step back from the new authoritarianism, but only if we understand the flawed nature of how its advocates view the politics of human relations.
Why have liberals become so intolerant? They think nothing of denying someone as prominent as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from speaking on a college campus. They embrace activists who shut down speakers. They publicly shame people for the slightest deviation from liberal orthodoxy.
Their mindset is the very definition of closed-mindedness.
For them everything from science to the law is “settled” once they get into power. Progress is a one-way street. Their mindset is the very definition of closed-mindedness.
The easy answer would be “they are all bad people.” But frankly that’s a cop-out. Not all liberals are bad people, any more than all conservatives are angels. No doubt among the fevered minions of liberal activists there are people with, shall we say, psychological issues, but that doesn’t explain why so many otherwise reasonable people are so beholden to liberalism as an ideology.
The short answer is that it pays. A lot of people in and out of government benefit. Liberalism also makes people feel good. Whether you are politician dispensing government benefits or the citizen receiving them, liberalism hides the self-interest and sometimes even greed that motivate people.
But the devolution of liberalism into something now openly illiberal has causes far more complex than these familiar explanations provide.
For one thing, liberalism is no longer mainly about ideas. It is about power—as in who has it and who doesn’t. Believing they already know the answers to all questions, liberals view politics and governing as mopping up operations.
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Academic research is about proving a point rather than discovering the truth. Science is treated as the private preserve of a certain ideology, not to mention a political weapon to justify preferred policy outcomes. Mistaking as they do their ideology for morality, they see no reason to shun the most cynical of political tactics to get their way. For them, the end justifies the means.
Second, liberalism today is not the liberalism of yesteryear. It’s not Franklin Roosevelt’s or John Kennedy’s liberalism. It’s not even the liberalism of Bill Clinton. It has become something much more radical. Bill Clinton talked about the “era of big government” being over.
It’s not Franklin Roosevelt’s or John Kennedy’s liberalism.
Today, there is virtually no government program that liberals won’t embrace. Clinton had his Sister Souljah moment when he repudiated extremism in his party. Today liberals can’t get close enough to the “black lives matter” movement.
Third, liberals have surrendered to (some would say created) the nasty culture of intolerance that infuses our popular culture. To this extent, they are not at all different from some self-proclaimed right-wing people who do the same. But the difference is—or at least is supposed to be—that liberals profess to be the party of the open mind. They have become anything but.
Now that they control so many of our institutions—our universities, high-tech corporate board rooms, the entertainment industry, and increasingly even mainstream churches—they are closing the door behind them, making sure that no one, especially conservatives, will sneak in the back door.
Finally, liberalism has become hostile to open inquiry. Liberal intellectuals used to love open-ended debates because they thought they could win people over with their intelligence and wit. No more. Today’s liberal intellectuals are much more interested in stifling debates than having them. After all, who needs debates when all the big questions have been answered by their ideology? Liberals are no longer the scruffy radicals of Washington Square, but a tenured Mandarin class hotly competing for government research grants.
As I argue in my forthcoming book, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind,” to this Mandarin class:
Knowledge, like human progress, must be created and managed by state policy, bureaucratized and forced on all people equally despite the infinite differences that exist between individual human beings. It is a sad state of affairs, especially for intellectuals who are expected to know better.
There’s an old saying, he who controls knowledge controls power. Liberals get this adage instinctively. They treat truth not as wisdom—as something to be discovered—but as a will to power to be imposed by law and governmental fiat.
In this quest for power, they have become masters at controlling not only knowledge, but popular culture. For example, when Americans watch entertainers like Jon Stewart, they don’t see an ideologue channeling liberal clichés. They see just a really funny guy. The ideology is completely buried. Young people respond in lockstep not because they were indoctrinated by some boring Maoist, but because they think the whole thing is great fun.
What we have here is nothing less than a new and highly attractive form of illiberalism—an illiberal liberalism, if you will. Intolerance is championed in the name of tolerance, closed-mindedness in the name of open-mindedness, and hatred in the name of compassion. It’s classic double-think, and the deception is precisely the danger. Americans don’t expect liberals to be authoritarian wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are not prepared to be on guard all the time because liberals are supposed to be the good guys—the guardians of freedom of speech and the like.
Alas, they are not. Just ask Condi Rice or anyone else who has been denied the opportunity to speak on an American campus.
The Willful Blindness of an IRS Sycophant
July 24, 2015 by Dan Mitchell
Remember Sleepless in Seattle, the 1993 romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?
Well, there should be a remake of that film entitled Clueless in Washington. But it wouldn’t be romantic and it wouldn’t be a comedy.
Though there would be a laughable aspect to this film, because it would be about an editorial writer at the Washington Post trying to convince people to feel sorry for the IRS. Here’s some of what Stephen Stromberg wrote on Wednesday.
Congress has done some dumb things. One of the dumbest is the GOP’s penny-wise-pound-foolish campaign to defund the Internal Revenue Service. …its mindless tantrum against the IRS has produced for taxpayers: a tax season that was “by far the worst in memory,” according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an agency watchdog.
Before I share any more of the article, I should point out that the “Taxpayer Advocate Service” isn’t a watchdog. It should be renamed the “Government Advocate Service” since its main goal is to increase the IRS’s budget.
But I’m digressing. Let’s continue with Mr. Stromberg’s love letter to tax collectors.
The underlying problem is that Congress has asked the IRS to do a lot more, such as administering a critical piece of Obamacare, but the GOP Congress won’t give the agency the funding it needs to do its work. …But good luck convincing Republicans to fix the IRS’s entirely predictable and avoidable problems. Not when that would mean restraining the impulse to act on anti-tax orthodoxy, blind populist anger and scandal-mongering about the IRS mistreating conservatives. In fact, Republicans want to double down on their nonsense budgeting, proposing deep cuts to the IRS last month.
Oops, time for another correction.
Stromberg is cherry picking data to imply that the IRS budget has been savaged.
If you look at the long-run data, however, you’ll see that the IRS now has almost twice as much money to run its operations as it did a few decades ago.
And that’s based on inflation-adjusted dollars, so we have a very fair apples-to-apples comparison.
Stromberg also wants us to sympathize with the bureaucrats because the tax code has been made more complex.
The underlying irrationality is the same: The IRS doesn’t write the tax code or health-care law, but the agency must apply these policies and engage with people affected by them, so it is an easy scapegoat.
Part of this passage is correct, and I’ve specifically pointed out that the tax code is mind-numbingly complex and that politicians deserve an overwhelming share of the blame for this sorry state of affairs.
That being said, the IRS goes beyond the law to make the system worse, as we saw when it imposed a regulation that put foreign tax law above American tax law. And when it arbitrarily rewrote the Obamacare legislation to enable additional subsidies.
In other words, it deserves to be scapegoated.
But there’s a bigger issue, one that Stromberg never even addresses. Why should we give more money to a bureaucracy that manages to find plenty of resources to do bad things?
And then awarded bonuses to itself for this corrupt behavior!
Even more outrageous, the Washington Examiner reports today that the IRS still hasn’t cleaned up its act.
A series of new revelations Wednesday and Thursday put the Internal Revenue Service back under fire for its alleged efforts to curtail…conservative nonprofits. …the Government Accountability Office uncovered evidence that holes in the tax agency’s procedure for selecting nonprofit groups to be audited could allow bias to seep into the process. …lawmakers exposed the lack of safeguards that could prevent IRS officials from going after groups with which they disagreed. Meanwhile, the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch released documents Wednesday that suggested the IRS targeted the donors of certain tax-exempt organizations.
Does this sound like a bureaucracy that deserves more of our money?
If you’re still not sure how to answer, consider the fact that the IRS also somehow has enough money in its budget to engage in the disgusting “asset forfeiture” racket.
The Wall Street Journal recently opined on this scandal.
…a pair of new horror stories show why Americans dread any interaction with the vindictive tax man. Khalid Quran owns a small business in Greenville, North Carolina. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1997, opened a convenience store near a local airport, and worked long hours to give his four children more opportunity. After nearly two decades, Mr. Quran had saved $150,000 for retirement. Then in 2014 the IRS seized his bank account because he had made withdrawals that raised red flags under “structuring” laws that require banks to report transactions of more than $10,000. Mr. Quran had made transactions below that limit.
So even though Mr. Quran did nothing illegal and even though it’s legal to make deposits of less than $10,000, the IRS stole his money.
Just like money was stolen from the Dehko family.
Here’s the other example from the WSJ.
Maryland dairy farmer Randy Sowers…had $62,936.04 seized from his bank account because of the pattern of his deposits, though the money was all legally earned. …Mr. Sowers told his story to a local newspaper…a lawyer for Mr. Sowers asked…“why he is being treated differently.” Mr. Cassella replied that the other forfeiture target “did not give an interview to the press.” So much for equal treatment under the law.
Yes, you read correctly. If you have the temerity to expose the IRS’s reprehensible actions, the government will try to punish you more severely.
Even though the only wrongdoing that ever happened was the IRS’s confiscation of money in the first place!
So let’s celebrate the fact that the IRS is being subjected to some modest but long-overdue belt-tightening.
Notwithstanding Mr. Stromberg’s column, the IRS is not a praiseworthy organization. And many of the bureaucrats at the agency deserve our disdain.
- It has thieving employees.
- It has incompetent employees.
- It has thuggish employees.
- It has brainless employees.
- It has protectionist employees.
- It has wasteful employees.
- And it has victimizing employees.
The bottom line is that IRS budget cuts show that Republicans sometimes do the right thing.
And maybe if there are continued cuts and the current tax system actually does become unenforceable at some point, maybe politicians could be convinced to replace the corrupt internal revenue code with a simple and fair flat tax.