GOP Goes To War For Sacred Right Of Wealthy Americans To Cheat On Their Taxes
Cheating on your taxes, it's the American way! At least according to Republicans, who just nixed $40 billion in funding for IRS enforcement from the infrastructure bill at the behest of their donors, who really, really love tax fraud. Sure, the extra enforcement money would have resulted in more than $100 billion in increased revenue to pay for roads and power grid improvements over the next 10 years. But it would have also meant that rich people have to actually pay the paltry amount they actually owe the government after two generations of trickle down bullshit tax cuts. And we can't have that!
The IRS estimates approximately 15 percent of taxes went uncollected 10 years ago. The technical term for that discrepancy is the "tax gap," and it accounted for something like $440 billion annually between 2011 and 2013, the most recent years for which the IRS has released data. Let's take a wildass guess that the intervening 10 years of cuts to IRS funding capped off by four years under the leadership of a president who proudly paid no federal income tax at all, did not lead to increased tax compliance.
And yet! The GOP has backtracked in the infrastructure bill negotiations and vowed to block increased funding to collect taxes we all agree are lawfully owed because ... uhhh, OBAMA.
See, it started with a warning letter from "The Committee to Unleash Prosperity," a safe space for trickle-down dead-enders like Art Laffer and Larry Kudlow to shout "This time cutting taxes will totally increase revenue!" without the risk that someone will confront them with the cocktail napkin math — not to say decades of history — that prove them totally, unequivocally, laughably wrong.
"With the Covid crisis over, the economy recovering, and the national debt crashing toward $30 trillion, Congress should be aggressively CUTTING spending right now – not adding to the record size and scope of government," they warned, before launching into a broadside against the proposed IRS enforcement funding.
"No additional funding for the Internal Revenue Service, especially given its multiple scandals over the past decade," demanded the signatories, who include Steve Forbes, Grover Norquist, and Stephen Moore. "We have not forgotten about Lois Lerner's tactics of using IRS enforcement to harass conservative groups and donors. Republicans in Congress shouldn't either."
LOIS LERNER'S TACTICS.
Having successfully weaponized a lie about non-profit tax enforcement, they're returning to that old canard. For those of you who managed to forget it, "Lois Lerner's tactics" is a reference to a fake Obama-era scandal where Tea Party loons who got caught trying to game the system and operate as tax-exempt entities screamed bloody murder about being "targeted" by Lois Lerner, who was then the director of the Exempt Organizations division at the IRS. While Lerner admitted mistakes, multiple investigations proved that there was no bias in enforcement, and leftwing groups came under the same scrutiny as rightwingers.
The immediate upshot was that the IRS all but gave up trying to police tax exempt organizations to ensure that they weren't political outfits LARPing as charities (which they were). And in the longterm, Republicans got a cudgel to beat Democrats with in their longstanding battle to make the world safe for tax cheats.
Naturally, the GOP immediately adopted the Tax Liars' talking point.
"I don't think anybody's looking forward to an army of auditors to audit your tax returns. Unfortunately, the IRS has a reputation problem because of weaponization … the Lois Lerners of the world," Texas Senator John Cornyn told HuffPost's Igor Bobic. Which is ballsy from a guy whose party created that "reputation problem" by lying its ass off about Lerner's tenure.
If anyone's guilty of "weaponization," it's the goon squad at the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which just this month published an editorial by columnist William McGurn, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, calling to "Defund Joe Biden's IRS" — currently headed by Trump appointee Chuck Rettig, but whatevs — because of Lois Lerner.
"Remember Lois Lerner?" he blarped. "During her tenure as director of exempt organizations, the IRS unfairly singled out conservative nonprofits for special scrutiny and harassment."
Which is a funny way of saying, "It's better with an IRS so starved of money that it can't afford to collect taxes from rich people who have the money to hire lawyers, so Uncle Sam is forced to go after the little fishes and leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table every year." But make no mistake, that's what they mean.
And maybe Democrats will have the balls to include the cash in whatever reconciliation bill we pass after this infrastructure chaos is over. Here's hoping we can nut up and call their bluff — if Mitch McConnell wants to explain why it's better to allow rich people to stiff the government, he's welcome to have at it. Because that is the sum and substance of the GOP position, and the louder we scream about it, the better.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.