Laws Are For The ‘Little People’

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m getting tired of daily news items that leave me both mystified and angry. One of the most recent causes of that combination was news that, during the Republicans’ “negotiation” (note quotes) on the infrastructure bill, they insisted on removing the measure’s additional funding for the IRS.

Please note, this wasn’t a provision allowing the government to raise taxes. This money would have provided the agency with more resources to go after tax evasion. In a sane world (which we clearly don’t inhabit), the party of “law and order” might be expected to support the notion that government should crack down on the crime of tax evasion.

Plus, we are talking about a lot of money. The Treasury Department has estimated that what they call the “tax gap,”–that is, taxes owed under current rates but not paid– amounts to more than $500 billion every year. According to Paul Krugman, some estimates put the number much higher. The Biden administration has simply proposed additional resources that the I.R.S. needs to reduce that gap.

I also want to emphasize that we aren’t talking about the obscene amounts of money sheltered by obscenely rich people in various tax havens, or monies not payable thanks to  the operation of various tax loopholes. We are talking about money people owe after their tax advisors have helped them take advantage of these handy  little mechanisms.

When people who owe taxes don’t pay them, the rest of us have to make up the difference. Given the economics of what constitutes today’s GOP base, why wouldn’t Republican officeholders want to spread the burden–in this case, the costs of repairing America’s crumbling infrastructure–to the citizenry as a whole?

In his column, Krugman shares my mystification–although he’s a bit more cynical.

Just to be clear, I’m not surprised to learn that a significant number of senators are sympathetic to the interests of wealthy tax cheats, that they are objectively pro-tax evasion. I am, however, surprised that they are willing to be so open about their sympathies.

There is, after all, a big difference between arguing for low taxes on the rich and arguing, in effect, that rich people who don’t pay what they legally owe should be allowed to get away with it.

Just to be equally clear, I was surprised that  even these Senators would be “objectively pro-tax evasion.”

For one thing, I don’t think even right-wingers would dare make the usual arguments for low tax rates, dubious as those arguments are, on behalf of tax evasion. Who would seriously claim that the only thing keeping “job creators” going is their belief that they can dodge the taxes the law says they should pay?

 Krugman asks the question that I also ponder: who are the constituents for this startling position? Granted, a bigger budget deficit might cut into the social spending Republicans detest, but–as he points out– it also leaves less room for legal tax cuts.

Tax evasion certainly isn’t limited to the rich–Krugman reminds us that when plumbers or handymen ask for payment in cash, we can pretty much figure out why–but it is definitely concentrated among the well-do-do.

Opportunities to hide income are concentrated at the top; one recent estimate is that more than 20 percent of the income of the top 1 percent goes unreported.

It’s certainly possible that big political donors are among the biggest tax cheats. Krugman thinks that their clout within the G.O.P. “has actually increased as the party has gotten crazier.”

There have always been wealthy Americans who dislike the right’s embrace of racial hostility and culture wars but have been willing to swallow their distaste as long as Republicans keep their taxes low. But as the G.O.P. has become more extreme — as it has become the party of election lies and violent insurrection — who among the wealthy is still willing to make that trade-off?

Some rich Americans have always been right-wing radicals. But as for the rest, the party’s base within the donor class presumably consists increasingly of those among the wealthy with the fewest scruples and the least concern for their reputations — who are precisely the kind of people most likely to engage in blatant tax evasion.

This seems like a stretch. On the other hand, I have no better explanation.


  1. Krugman asks the question that I also ponder: who are the constituents for this startling position?
    I mentioned that in a note to my crazy right wing IN Senator – that clearly he cares more about his rich donors being able to evade taxes than he cares about anything or anyone else. These people are shameless. Utterly shameless.

  2. The question posed: “who are the constituents for this startling position?”

    Both parties have attacked the IRS to where only small errors like my $23.16 miscalculation by TurboTax can be tracked.

    Anything requiring sophisticated methods or lengthy investigations has been eliminated and neutered by both parties over the years for the oligarchy. They take turns whacking the mole but for different reasons and use different methods—the same result.

    Much of it was expedited during the Citizens United period. I wonder if the Shameless Parade or 1/6 a commission will order the IRS to track the money used for the attempted coup?

    While they all at themselves on the backs, even the shameless sycophants, their day of reckoning is coming. The Boomers have raped and pillaged the planet and so have their kids. Will the younger generations hold them accountable?

  3. Are we going to have to start a “GoFundMe” for government provided public services?

  4. The Former Guy openly bragged in a presidential debate that “smart” guys like him didn’t pay any taxes. Paying taxes is for chumps like you and me. The Republican Party wants to keep it that way.

  5. When you buy into the dogma of a political party that teaches that government is the problem, that it should be shrunk in size in order to drowned it in a bathtub, then of course you would not care to fund it. You use every loophole, lie, cheat, whatever it takes for your selfishness to keep that money coming into your pocket alone.
    IMO the divide in this country is not between the left and the right; it’s between and selfish and the giving, the unfeeling and the caring, the cold hearted and the loving.

  6. Thank you, Theresa Bowers, for saying what I have been thinking and observing for years.
    Those ‘patriots’ brag about supporting our vets but grouse about funding our government
    (which includes paying my active duty USAF family).
    As usual, it’s us middle wage earners, otherwise known as little people, who are keeping our country going.

    And sadly, these tax-dodging patriots can quote scripture with the best.

  7. Well, OF COURSE Republican politicians abhor the IRS!! How else can their paymasters keep cheating on their taxes by screwing everyone else?


  8. One of the most recent newsworthy examples of a wealthy tax cheater is the ex prez, who paid a corporate employee (daughter) consulting fees in addition to her regular paycheck and paid for employee’s children/grandchildren’s private schools etc, etc, etc to avoid taxes. I’m sure those are just small examples of a much larger tax cheating scam. His claim of “ignorance” of the tax laws was laughable.

    I have been waiting far too long to see that criminal arrested and handcuffed – when will this happen? Or does he have powerful connections who are working behind the scenes to make sure he never pays for his crimes because he has threatened to expose their crimes if they don’t help him?

  9. Churches have studied the issue of “social/economic class” in relationships to giving. What materialized is this: The least likely to give are the people of the lowest classes and those of the wealthiest classes. Both are under the idea that
    they have nothing to give or nothing to lose via their giving practices. In the questions of extremes left and right in ethics and morality, the same adage applies. Some rich people feel entitled by success to use excesses. Some of the poorest naturally feel that the world owes them a lot. Janis Joplin sang: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose.”
    As a student in Texas, she commonly felt “left out,” of the fellowship equation. When she achieved some wealth and celebrity status, she received a special invite to her first class reunion, where she delivered a scathing speech to the class she thought had rendered her impotent in the quest for recognition.
    Ten years ago, I did an investigation into the people who had distinguished themselves via success after graduating from my local hospital. I asked them to write a biography of their lives and supplied the guidelines designed for that task. A few were mad as hell over their upbringing in a town that had given them nothing but woe. Don’t look for gifts from said folks. They feel as if they are owed for their pain.
    This matter has a lot to do with self-esteem which strengthens one for the better gifts of existence. It is out of that better gifts orientation that people give and care about good citizenship. Lack of real self-esteem may created a cultural scenario for bad character that comes from entitlement or resentment. Currently, it appears that the old republican party has disappeared as it emerged into the sphere of prevarication and deception. Not new! It’s an old story that the Republican party has adopted. Now the biggest liar in our country is the retired president of the United States who demands everything from his followers. Freedom is just another word for taking everything away and giving nothing. Freedom is of little use without the lovely balance of responsibility.

  10. Much of this goes back to the lie that the IRS targeted conservative groups for enforcement of non-profit rules. At the time, there was a surge in mostly right-wing lobbying groups seeking to evade reporting by organizing as a non-for-profit social benefit organization.
    And this is another good example of why you don’t want lies to go unchallenged.

    It’s hard to have a lot of love for the IRS – but it’s also a big part of having a functional government. One only has to look at the Greek debt crisis to see the result of widespread tax evasion.

    A friend recently sent a New Yorker cartoon – the theme was how billionaire Bezos was traveling into space on a penis shaped rocket, while NYC infrastructure is crumbling. I get it that Bezos is being tone deaf, but it’s political leaders’ job – and ultimately voters’ job – to make sure that things get funded and maintained. When they don’t get funded all along, roads fall apart, buildings fall down, and ultimately governments collapse.

    Keep in mind that government disfunction where it touches people directly is often an entrance for authoritarian leaders. It may have been a myth that Mussolini made the trains run on time, but that general idea is in most every authoritarian playbook – from the Taliban, to the middle east, to drug dealers, to Donald Trump. Dole out food, protection, vaccines etc. when the government has failed to do so, and you will build a loyal base.

    Not funding the IRS is a long-game setup for someone to claim, “Only I can fix it”.

  11. Nancy, you ask great questions, but Paul never answers them on the platform because he’d lose it.

    The deeper you dive into US humanity and society, there is a propensity for cheating. Obviously, thou shall not steal got a high place from God. Ethos is all over the world’s religions, so it must have requires lots of attention.

    We’ve got strong laws against it for the poor man.

    There must be a glass ceiling we don’t know about. ;

  12. Time for (apologies to J. Lennon) a bit of “Imagine”…

    Imagine if the smartest and most creative grads from the best business and law schools went to work for the IRS instead of the firms enabling the rich and corporations to dodge their obligations.

    OK so there is no way we could match the wages, but what if they got bonuses based on what they won?

    Ain’t imagining fun?

  13. The truly interesting thing about the GOP’s position is that they leave the IRS with only enough resources to go after small fry. It’s so much less expensive to take on those who “cheated” because they didn’t know any better. Those people who made errors aren’t likely to be able to afford a team of lawyers to fight for them, while those who knowingly cheat can and do. It’s just the continuation of the war on the poor.

  14. A segment of our political parties – Blue Dog Democrats or the GOP have been resistant to government in general and the Federal Government in particular. FDR and the New Deal became the poster child for Big Government. The Civil Rights legislation that crushed Jim Crow, at least legally, in particular aroused the States Rights movement. The Federal Government became the enemy.

    Today, with the exception of our bloated “Defense Dept.”, the idea of starving the Federal Government has taken hold in the GOP. We are aware of the loop holes the the 1% and Multi-National Corporations have at their disposal to evade taxes. The complexity of the tax system is no accident.

    De-funding the IRS is simply one more way for the 1% and corporations to evade taxes.

  15. During the post-war years the “little people” honored their word on a handshake, cared for their families and other people, and PAID THEIR TAXES!! That society no longer exists, unfortunately. Now it is greed that leads many people, and the rest of us be damned. Politicians used to be bipartisan on many issues and now the Republican party is no longer as it was founded; they are in it for themselves and not America and Americans. Certainly not even for their constituents. It is a very sad day.

  16. The GOP does not care about a federal budget deficit. They passed a”tax reform” bill giving tax cuts to the wealthy oligarchy. This sounds like corporate socialism to me. Maybe the democrats should use the word socialism against Republicans who support tax cuts to corporations. The “tax reform” ballooned the deficit. It has not been paid for. Their belief that the tax cuts would in turn create jobs that in turn would increase the amount of taxes received was misguided. This economic theory has proven to be wrong more than once.

    In the meantime, I still have not received my 2nd stimulus check even though I wrote my Republican representative. I don’t know why I have not received it nor the refund I claimed on my tax return because I have NOT received it.

    I guess they are extremely understaffed or worse, the staff are highly incompetent.

  17. I spent two years as a Deputy Attorney General and tax counsel for the Territory of Guam, which adopted the Internal Revenue Code as its own via Guam’s Organic Act of 1950. I prosecuted evaders and avoiders such as Japanese beach hotel owners, locals who had investments in a mahogany business in New Guinea for export to Japan and, of course, individuals in federal court with Tax Court jurisdiction and a sometime sojourn to San Francisco and/or to a circuit riding 9th Circuit in Honolulu for appeals from the local federal court, and yes, there are many taxpayers among us, mostly rich ones, who deviously when caught dead to rights plead avoidance (accounting errors etc.) and not evasion (a felony risking time in the hoosegow).

    I was threatened and otherwise insulted in carrying out my duties and told anyone who would listen that there was biblical as well as current distaste for tax collectors and that there was only one person more hated than tax collectors i.e., their lawyers. I fit that bill.

    The rich and corporate class via their campaign contributions to Republicans (and some Democrats) have for years arranged a shortage of auditors in the IRS so that they could evade (or if on occasion caught, avoid) their tax liability, and our failure to adequately fund the IRS has cost our treasury billions and billions of dollars more than if we had brought in an adequate number of auditors to ensure compliance with the internal revenue code, riddled as it already is with all sorts of loopholes, and perhaps as important as collecting the tax monies due is the public example that those who evade or avoid such payment due will pay the price for their non-compliance with the law, hence encouraging all taxpayers to comply rich or poor.

    I could go on and on but won’t in re overriding tax treaties with Japan, expropriation via revolution etc. It’s an interesting area, and I was invited to stay on and even offered the AG’s job itself, but chose to resume my practice – and did.

  18. Let’s get it straight – there are two sub-species of humans: the “Deserving” (recognized by their wealth) and the “Scum”.

    The “Deserving” should get to do whatever they want without giving up any of their wealth. This means low taxes and not paying them either.

    This serves to incentivize the “Scum” to work hard and inherit a lot of money like Trump, or the Kochs.

    The other thing is that no one should tell them what to do. No damned IRS and certainly no government regulations. A poor government not only can’t give “welfare” to the undeserving “Scum”, but they can’t enforce any regulations, including collecting taxes.

    I’ve mentioned before how this started in earnest under Reagan, as was noted by David Broder of the Washington Post.

    The fact that the current GOP has no shame should surprise no one. Of course, they advocate tax cheating, but only for the rich. If they had control, every minority, immigrant, and political opponent would deserve an audit — yearly.

  19. I’ve been on vacation for a few precious days, and when I read about this, earlier, I was outraged! The GQP does not “negotiate,” they demand!

  20. What Pat Mcc said.

    The GOP is dead. They just haven’t yet changed their name to the new American fascist party. The real Republicans have joined the Lincoln project, although they have yet to change their name to the Lincoln party. The people who have taken over what used to be the Republican party are clearly mobsters, and this is just another blatant indication that they are.

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