John Colson: The ‘monopoly men’ have us by the throat
Hith & Run
As I read about the recent blockbuster scoop by the ProPublica nonprofit news agency, about the tax dodging dance performed by some of the richest citizens of this country, I thought back to my working career of more than half a century and how I’ve been paying around a fifth of my annual income to the tax man like a good little citizen for all that time.
Now, as I have long suspected, I understand more about how the wealthiest people in the U.S. have managed to pay next to no income taxes over several decades while the rest of us pay through the nose.
I also have been dismayed, but not surprised, by the reaction of the Party of the Rich (meaning the Republican Party) to the stories by the ProPublica investigative team.
Rather than decrying the inequity displayed in the stories, Republicans have been screeching about how the Internal Revenue Service has committed a grievous assault on the poor rich tax dodgers, and caterwauling about how they must work to further weaken the tax agency by going into deep-probe mode to fine out how this information got out, and by making moves to cut the agency’s budget even more than it was cut under the administration of our previous president — himself a well-known tax dodger.
Let me say here that I am no fan of the IRS, which has always seemed to approach its mission from an assumption that those of us in the lower income brackets are a bunch of liars and cheaters who should expect to be audited, prosecuted and jailed for our evil ways.
Rich people, on the other hand, are the open beneficiaries of our tax laws, which seem to be written to create as many loopholes as possible that are just the right size for tax accountants and attorneys to jump through.
Add to this the fact that the income tax code, over the past half-century or so, has become so complex and difficult to navigate that those of us who cannot afford such luxuries as accountants and attorneys, even for minimal help in adjusting our tax burden, end up being the only ones paying our government’s operating expenses.
This increasing complexity is due, of course, to the fact that so many of our legislators these days are attorneys, and they write the laws in ways that are essentially incomprehensible to anyone but other attorneys.
In this way, it is virtually assured that the attorneys get rich by helping with the Big Cheat, as I call the annual tax season, and that a lot of those same attorneys end up becoming part of that same upper crust of tax cheats and avoiders.
All of this, of course, is old news, as is the Republican Party’s antipathy toward the IRS, which is tied to the party’s hostility and condescension toward those occupying the lower rungs of this country’s economic ladder.
Offering just one example, a recent New York Times story outlines how the IRS annually loses billions of dollars in revenue thanks to the tax-dodging machinations of this countries burgeoning “private equity industry,” which has been aided by changes to the tax code last year by an official at the U.S. Treasury who was recruited from the ranks of the tax dodgers for this very purpose.
As the NYT reports, the changes to the rules were a “farewell gift” from the administration of the previous occupant of the White House (let’s call him “he who shall not be named,” though his initials are DJT) to what the news story referred to as “the buyout industry,” meaning the overseers of the long march toward consolidation of corporate America into fewer and fewer firms controlling more and more of the nation’s wealth.
With this “gift,” the Republican party has made its fealty completely clear — help the wealthy and corporate classes hold onto their money and increase it, while forcing the government to turn to lower-income individuals to provide the annual federal income needed to run the government.
All of this, of course, is part of a long-standing Republican plan to whittle government down inexorably, stripping the IRS in particular of its ability to prevent the country from slipping ever further into the pit of plutocracy and authoritarianism.
National columnist Maureen Dowd, addressing this same broad subject, recently referred to this class of tax cheats and con artists as “monopoly men” who play games with our economy, and points out that it is the height of hypocrisy for Republicans in Congress to cry poor in the face of a mounting fiscal crisis in the U.S., while they were the ones who rammed through a $1.5 trillion tax break for the wealthy that has drained government coffers drastically. The resulting loss of revenue has virtually forced the government into the unwieldy position of needing to raise taxes just to stay fiscally afloat, never mind the need for trillions of dollars in infrastructure repairs and social welfare programming that has been the clarion call of President Joe Biden’s administration.
It is well past time that the voters of this country put their collective foot down and demand that the rich pay their fair share of these bills, before we descend further into chaos and self-destruction.
That is all, for now.
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