May 3, 2015

The IRS’ Sob Story

By In Articles, Politics

The mid-month April edition of Bloomberg Businessweek featured a story on the IRS, which was captioned on the cover page as “If you think paying your taxes is bad, try working at America’s most unloved agency.” This jolted me. I put on my Menckenite cap of deep-seated cynicism and I jumped immediately to the story. What I discovered was a media driven pity party of epic proportions.  Herein, we shall have a little fun with it.

Basically, Bloomberg, or whomever was pushing the story behind the scenes (seriously, the libertarian can’t read something like this and assume, “gee, they just randomly decided to treat the IRS as a cancer patient who needed some compassion.”), wanted its readers to come to the realization that we Americans talk so much about all the ways that the IRS is gutting us, but no one ever hears the IRS side of the story! These guys are suffering too! Now, in case your tendency is to prefer coming down in concern of the plight of the robbed over the pillage of the robbing, be prepared for a guilt trip.

“Paying taxes to the IRS is no fun,” Bloomberg points out.  And then adds: “Neither is working there.”

The public relations effort heartbreaking tale of the IRS’ struggles began at the Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Assistance Center (IRSTAC), where an “assistance specialist” (lol) “wish[ed] she could share some of her own IRS troubles with her visitors.”  Such as? Well, apparently “her salary has risen only 2 percent in the last year.”  Yes, in our age of mass unemployment, the shifting from full to part time employment (primarily due to Obamacare), and the mass exit from the employment market altogether due the inability to find a job, the IRS workers who have great pension and health care plans, face such horrors as salary increases at a 2% level.  Now, of course, everybody wants their salaries to outpace the rising costs of living (which are caused by the government and the Federal Reserve in the first place), but must we really weep over the Unproductive Sector employees, who have work because the Government doesn’t have to obey the trends of the market?  The Bloomberg piece says, absolutely you do.  

Our assistance specialist has other problems too. Because of a “hiring freeze,” she has to handle her own clerical duties, answer questions via webcam (presumably in an air conditioned office), and “buy her own pens” (pens provided, no doubt, by an evil capitalist who greedily demands money for these pens because he doesn’t have a government agency subsidizing his work).

We also learn that the work is becoming more intense “because so many people come in with questions about tax credits for Obamacare and what to do to prevent identity thieves from stealing their refunds.”  Hmm. What to do, what to do.  Essentially, we’ve got a government health insurance scam with disastrous tax implications, which causes the work load on our beloved Assistance Specialists to rise substantially and all we can think about is the need to direct more scarce resources toward the IRSTAC.  And here I was thinking that the logical thing to do is not, you know, pyramid more Federally mandated, industry-centralizing bureaucratic needs on an already over-bloated system. But what do I know. I’m just a private citizen.  As for the identity thieves, I’ve got myself another brilliant idea: following suggestions by people like Ron Paul, why don’t we eliminate the income tax and sit back and reflect on all the identity thieves who no longer have any refunds to pursue.  Too logical, too reasonable, too moral.  Maybe we need more Assistance Specialists.

Bloomberg continues: “The IRS has never been an easy place to work.  Its 84,000 employees, 65 percent of them women [where’s the equality??], generally don’t tell people outside the service where they draw a paycheck.  It’s no way to make friends.”  Notice several things: 1). That’s a lot of employees.  Imagine the productivity that Americans in the private sector could be achieved if we didn’t need to pay these folks plus their lousy 2% raise.  2). It’s hard for the IRS workers to make friends. Here’s why they put that bit in there: it’s not to encourage people to be nice to the dude on the line when you call the IRS in fuming desperation. No, rather, they put this in there so as to make it a point that the reader ought to be overwhelmed with guilt over the fact that he is generally distasteful about bureaucrats who work for the state.  It’s part of the anti-“employment-shaming” gambit, which is part of the powerful anti-shaming industry in general. In short, to not be tripping over yourself in delight and endorsement for someone’s activities and lifestyle, is considered “hateful” and “bigoted.” 3). “Outside the service.” The service. Fascinating. Who are they serving? People with questions, who are confused about what to do. Why do they have questions? Because if they do something wrong, people that are far more powerful than an Assistance Specialist will go after them. For what crime? Failing to give a portion of their income to the Powerful Agency.

Thanks for your service.

The article randomly (seriously the context was brutally irrelevant) mentioned “an antigovernment zealot [who] flew a single-engine plane into a building in Austin, Texas….” Why mention it? You know why– so you don’t become an antigovernment zealot. How is that defined? As one who has the tendency to deplore the IRS. The only difference between such a person and the pilot, according to Bloomberg, is that the pilot acted on it.  The State has a tendency to oppose those who aren’t fond of it. Such people, after all, are committing blasphemy against the state.

You know what’s funny? The language used to describe the suicidal pilot.  You’ll observe that he isn’t a “well-intentioned but ultimately unwise, passionate man who grew tired of the State’s war on freedom.”  And you’ll also notice that the IRS Commissioner isn’t “an anti-citizenry zealot who makes a living expropriating from everyone he can get his hands on.”  It’s all about perspective I suppose. At least Bloomberg is in the business of unbiased journalism.

Check this out, the IRS also wants you know that the “struggle is real” when you’re an IRS worker dealing with friends and family who ask you annoying questions, like (this is all quote verbatim): “How could you take those people’s houses and their businesses? The only place you get understanding is with other IRS people.”  Yes, the natural inclination amongst most of us is to question how in the world someone could live with themselves after taking businesses and homes that do not belong to them, simply because their owners did not pay something that they did not agree to (check out this disheartening story).  There is a real war going on between the state and the private citizens, resulting in the actual transfer of wealth from those who legitimately owned the wealth to those who have no legally sound claim to it.  And yet, the IRS’ reaction to annoying questions like these is, apparently (paraphrasing the above): “people just don’t understand our side of the story. They just don’t ‘get me.’ So many judgy people. Ugh.”  Seriously?

Here’s where things get really interesting, and my Rothbardian libertarian streak pours forth in shameless display.  Bloomberg touches on the Great Tragedy that the agency has “lost 11 percent of its employees… [and] last year it started 19 percent fewer criminal investigations than 2013. This year alone, it expects to close at least 46,000 fewer audits.”  Oh man. Where to start?

Magnificent!  Does this mean “we’re winning?”  This is precisely the news that we want! Fewer “criminal investigations” (sic for an increased effort to chase down those who were trying to protect their wealth) and less frequent audits means A) less money for the government to completely waste, B) less money for the government to cause trouble with, C) more money in the private sector.  This reminds me of a little47D40B1E-BDDF-48C7-AA0A-55F871F33768 Rothbard clip wherein he answers the question about whether a pay raise would attract more good people to government positions. He answered: “Who wants good people in government? Good people should be in the private sector. Helping us out, helping themselves out in the private sector. We want schmoes in government. We want people who can’t find the doorknob. Why waste productive people, as well as looting the taxpayer?”  Basically, the running assumption these days is that the way to “fix” government is to make it more efficient, to make it better at what it does.  But this is precisely the wrong thing to hope for! The government should be quite bad at what it does! We want people who waste their time on things that have nothing to do with taking more and more of our liberties, our wealth, our children. The day government gets a does of efficiency and accomplishes more of “its goals” is the day we discover we have less than before.

However, the Bloomberg piece didn’t quite answer in the way I did. In fact, it answered in the very opposite way: “Nobody like being scrutinized by the IRS, but audits are a key component of the tax system that keeps the U.S. afloat.”  First, it is completely true that the audits are a key component of the tax system. In that light, let us hope for 100,000 fewer audits next year and 200,000 the year after that. Second, it is completely and utterly false that these audits “keep the U.S. afloat.” No, what keeps the U.S. afloat is the market; the expansion of economically productive efforts and the creation of wealth. The unconstitutional and immoral IRS and its ridiculous audits are a gigantic, parasitically sucking tax on the ship that might allegorically be called the US.  The audits and the income tax and the behemoth bureaucracies that plague this system are a deadweight in the water, unrelentingly pulling us down to the bottom. And without the remaining and microscopic pieces of capitalism that remain, the ship would have long ago gone under.  We are literally surviving on the capital of yesterday, a time when the government did not demand unto itself all that it could see.  So therefore, the audits need to be the first to go.  In hopes that the ship might be repaired by the genius of the private and free market entrepreneur.

“‘[The audits] are core to the country,’ says Jeffrey Trinca, a former Senate aide turned lobbyist who specializes in tax policy.” Saith the lobbyist, who was once an aide for a Congressman. He’d know best, he knows what is core for the future survival of the behemoth Agencies that plunder. Let that be a case for the libertarian.

The rest of the essay tells of the woes of the IRS workers at nearly every level.  It begs the taxpayer to feel sorry for griping about forking over his hard-earned money. ss5271363cIt is a remarkable demonstration of the cozy relationship that the media has with the State.  The media acts as, and is, the well-paid marketing arm of the Institutions of Plunder.  The IRS though, like Mises predicated of every bureaucracy by their very nature, suffers under the weight of its own massively bloated administration.  It cannot calculate economically, it has no price mechanism. There is no profit and loss. There is no ability for the consumer (the taxpayer) to express his frustration by seeking its “services” elsewhere.  The citizen cannot say “enough is enough.”  He’s stuck in dreaded demoralization for decades on end.  A new IRS commissioner isn’t going to cut it. A new line of agency funding isn’t going to solve anything. It can’t. By its very nature. And thus, the Plunderers drudge forward, having outlets like Bloomberg advertise on its behalf, urging the taxpayer to consider it a friend, a fellow traveler.  Bastiat was right: they have created a legal and moral code which glorifies itself.

I hope you don’t fall for its antics. Its future status in the lives of every American (even those who are trying to escape legally) depends on the legitimacy that the people give it.

“The freedoms won by Americans in 1776 were lost in the revolution of 1913” (Frank Chodorov). “1913 wasn’t a very good year. 1913 gave us the income tax, the 16th amendment and the IRS.” (Ron Paul)

“The only beneficiaries of income taxation are the politicians, for it not only gives them the means by which they can increase their emoluments but it also enables them to improve their importance. The have-nots who support the politicians in the demand for income taxation do so only because they hate the haves; although they delude themselves with the thought that they might get some of the pelt the fact is that the taxing of incomes cannot in any way improve their economic condition.” — Frank Chodorov

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Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • Brian K. Jacobson

    Very interesting, It seems there has been a slew of pity pieces to bolster the IRS’s PR. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show two weeks ago was basically a 15 min campaign for the IRS, it was really pathetic. I’ve seen some other pieces of late too, must be a tax-season-preemptive-PR strike.

  • Brian K. Jacobson

    Also 84,000 employees? Is that across the whole US? Because that’s insane, in perspective Walt Disney World, the largest private on-site employer, has 62-65,000 employees at a time.