Here is my argument with Pete this morning.
The current progressive tax system is based in a class-envy model of taxation. But we have lived with that for a long time. It has fueled ever bigger government, but we have lived with that for a long time. Our income tax system is called a voluntary system of taxation, but if the IRS finds you volunteered your information falsely or if you filed according to what you (or your accountant) understand the law to be and the IRS disagrees, you are guilty and can be fined or imprisoned. Something bluntly compulsory that does not put innocent citizens in jeopardy would be preferable. Right now, the tax code is so complex that if the IRS wants you to be guilty, they can find a way.
The IRS has right to know how much income you have and how you allocate that income — that is too much information for a government of free men to have. The power they have is another reason to get rid of the IRS/income tax system. It must be evident in the current IRS scandal — they have too much power to make people miserable. And they use it. That system has become highly partisan and I don’t see how we change that. I don’t just mean given civil service rules, but short of some process of impressment for Republican accountants, the scope of that partisanship is too great.
It is considered a bit of a faux pas to point this out, but what we are talking about in part is a Democratic president, a largely Democratic professional administrative class in Washington, and an IRS whose workers belong to a union whose political action committee gave roughly 95% of its political contributions last year to Democrats. Tim Carney had a remarkable piece in the Washington Examiner this week in which he looked for campaign contributions from the IRS Cincinnati office. “In the 2012 election, every donation traceable to this office went to President Obama or liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown.” An IRS employee said in an email to Mr. Carney, “Do you think people willing to sacrifice lucrative private sector careers to work in tax administration . . . are genuinely going to support the party directed by Grover Norquist?”
That has been the liberal political commentator joke; what do people who call for smaller government expect from government employees?
Maybe we do not want a flat tax. I do not know what we wan; every system seems to have flaws. What we might need to want is a tax system that cannot be put to partisan political purposes. Can we begin with that?
Let’s not go here.