Those of us who are over 12 years of age and mentally complete basically knew this, but it was still disturbing to see ProPublica’s recent report, culled from leaked IRS information, revealing how absurdly little rich pigs like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett pay in taxes compared to what schmoes like you and me have to pony up. I don't know about you but I consider Jeff Bezos getting 99 billion dollars richer and paying only 0.98% tax on it to be a far greater outrage than whatever stupid cancel culture contretemps is going on today.
One hopes the word spreads and that some of the folks who've been bamboozled by conservatarians into thinking gazillionaires are pulling their weight Just Like The Rest of Us will be disabused and approve of raising their effective rates.
Of course, that’s just the sort of thing conservatives were invented to prevent, and they’ve rushed to the battlements — not to argue that the rich are paying their fair share (even rightwingers know they can’t put that one over anymore!) but to argue that Joe Sixpack’s real concern should be this egregious violation of Warren Buffett’s privacy. Jim Geraghty at National Review:
The relevant question is not whether you like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett and Elon Musk. The question is whether the IRS declaration that tax returns are confidential applies to everyone or not. This morning it’s pretty clear that the your tax return is confidential, as long as no one at the IRS thinks it is newsworthy. But if they do, you’re screwed.
“Gasp! The cursed MSM will reveal to the world that I deducted $3,000 for the loveseat I dumped at the Salvation Army! I’m screwed!”
Geraghty is joined in his defense of billionaire privacy by not one but two NR colleagues, Robert Verbruggen (“Journalists Got Thousands of Americans’ Confidential IRS Data”) and Charles Two Middle Initials Cooke (“We Can’t Trust The IRS”), all suggesting that you, Mr. Suburban Car Dealer or Mrs. Nail Salon Owner, could be the rogue IRS’ next victim.
Other tycoon defenders, like the Wall Street Journal editorial board (all hands on deck, huh, fellas?), try to make it sound even more ominous by hauling out the bullshit IRS scandalette of years past. “Less than half a year into the Biden Presidency,” intones WSJ, “the Internal Revenue Service is already at the center of an abuse-of-power scandal.”
Being capitalism's house organ, the Journal editors do briefly and hand-wavingly defend the low rates on the rich (“Bipartisan majorities have long supported this part of the tax code” — oh, well then!), but they focus on “the real scandal” — yes, they actually say “the real scandal,” like in one of my parodies — “which is that someone leaked confidential IRS information about individuals to serve a political agenda. This is the same tax agency that pursued a vendetta against conservative nonprofit groups during the Obama Administration. Remember Lois Lerner?”
Ha ha, sure we do, and like everyone with sufficient reading skills to have heard of it in the first place, we’re also aware of what a fraud the whole ginned-up controversy was. Jonathan Chait thumbnailed it well years afterward, and I didn’t do too bad myself in 2013:
Then there was the revelation that, in checking out organizations claiming to be primarily social service institutions for tax purposes, the IRS paid especially close attention to those with “Tea Party” and “patriot” in the title. Though the Tea Party is widely known as a political organization, singling out the tricorner folks was, rightbloggers said, tyranny, and they blamed Obama (“The Obama Administration Used Alinsky Tactics & IRS To Ensure Tea Party Was Not a Factor in 2012” — Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit), though his direct involvement with the IRS investigations remains unproven.
WorldNetDaily said the investigations had “KNOCKED TEA PARTY OFF ITS MISSION” during the late election season; WSJ‘s James Taranto even suggested that Obama had only won in 2012 because some people in revolutionary war costumes thought they might have to pay taxes and therefore withdrew from what was sure to be a successful battle to save America from the Kenyan Pretender...
Etc. If there’s any kind of real scandal adhering to the IRS over the past ten years, it’s how little they investigate evidence of tax cheating among the rich and how much more they investigate it among the lower- and middle-class. (Any guesses as to why?)
It’s all stupefyingly dumb. Even the rightwing thinktanks, whom we might once has expected to throw some charts and graphs in there to make it look intellectual-like, just work the same smoke machine as the rube-rattlers. “TAXPAYER WATCHDOG CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE INVESTIGATION OF IRS AFTER PROPUBLICA LEAK,” cries the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. (Such an investigation is already happening, but good effort, guys.) As you may have guessed from its Orwellian-incongruous name, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is a Koch Brothers libertarian front group — whose connection to Koch dark money was previously noted by ProPublica.
As I’ve been saying recently, because conservatives are so deeply invested in stealing elections now they no longer even try to convince normal people that they’re right —they just read talking points off the Morning Memo and then go to lunch. To an old-timer like me it’s a noticeable change. Why, I remember when they seemed to actually believe their own bullshit, or did a more convincing job of pretending they did. Remember the Tea Party shtick, where the Car Dealers and Nail Salon Owners dressed up like a community theater production of 1776 and acted as if Nathan Hale died for a capital gains tax rate cut? Remember that guy who called himself Tigerhawk back in 2009 seething over the injustice suffered by his rich buddies who “have worked harder and longer in their entire careers than most Americans understand and can even conceive”?
Now we know, and they know we know. It takes a lot of the drama out of it, except for the drama of whether we’re gonna do anything about it.