“Goodbye, America” Updated

April 15, 2012

In 2010, I posted Goodbye, America where I asked whether America was at a turning point, beyond which recovery from the critical mass of leftist momentum which has infested it would be impossible.  Since then, millions of Americans, led by Tea Party adherents, have realized this danger, if only in the widely apparent looming menace of the ever-increasing national debt.  And subsequently in 2010, Americans voted for Republicans in large numbers to begin to turn the tide in the right direction and stem the oncoming disaster.

But now it appears we are indeed beyond the turning point:

First, the positive results at the federal level from the big-talking, newly elected Republicans have been minimal, at best, even granting that they took over only the House of Representatives.   Indeed, the bureaucratic juggernaut continues apace, working to weaken the United States, in so many areas.  Just a few are the restrictions on energy production and usage [shuttering coal-fired power plants (and sending the unused coal to China) and the Keystone XL pipeline being but two examples], promoting hate and class warfare, and a hardly discussed disastrous foreign policy based on funding and aiding our avowed enemies [such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its kin in Turkey, in addition to China].  Not to mention the further explosive growth of the national debt.

Second, many polls, rather unbelievably to many of us, indicate that enough voters are blind enough and indoctrinated enough to predict that Obama will be reelected.  On one hand, I have not met anybody who could have voted for him the last time but did not, and will do so this year.  And I have heard some of his 2008 voters say they won’t vote for him this year.  That would suggest that he is likely to lose.  But on the other hand, in recent years, polls have been more accurate with their advance bad news than I would prefer to admit.

And now the alternate choice is the “moderate” Romney, not in any way conceivably an “extremist”, a label that some might use as an excuse to avoid voting for him.  But it also doesn’t give great hope that he will do much more than slow the tide, rather than stemming and reversing it.  Which makes the likelihood of a second term for the incumbent an even more alarming indicator of the state of mind of the populace.

Most unfortunately, many voters now are only too happy to do their part to destroy traditional America, with its values of individualism and freedom, as they believe the the socialist/European statist model and its attendant stagnation is superior and preferable.  This sad state of affairs has resulted because that is what the leftists and socialists who predominate in the country’s media, entertainment, academic, and bureaucratic establishments have told us to think for several decades now.  And also contributing is, of course, with relatively few exceptions, the rather weak presentation of those on our side.

Americans have until early November to wake up and vote accordingly.  Is anyone optimistic?

A Chink in the Democrats’ Jewish Voting Bloc — A Taste of More to Come?

September 23, 2011

In early 2008, I asked, “Who will leave the Democrats first: Blacks or Jews?”.  The congressional election in New York’s 9th Congressional District in New York City, won this month by Republican Bob Turner, provides a preliminary answer.  The election represents a significant chink in Jews’ solidly Democrat voting record.  That district has been termed the most heavily Jewish of any CD, and is estimated at 30% Jewish.

The election result is considered to stem from the Democrats’ abysmal handling of the economy and Obama’s visceral and manifest hostility to Israel.  That Obama would be no true friend of Israel was manifest to many of us four years ago, but others are slowly realizing that in fact he is not.  But for the Jewish vote to truly be competitive in future elections, many more voters will have to come to that conclusion, and further, that Obama’s Islamophiliac and anti-Israel attitudes are rather consonant with much of today’s Democrat party.

On the other hand, the Democrats’ nomination of a black presidential candidate, and a successful one at that, has since further cemented the Democrats as the black community’s overwhelming choice.  That remains true despite the tremendous damage, economic and otherwise, that the combination of that party and that president has inflicted on both the black community and the country as a whole.

The only contingency that might tend to pry black allegiance from the Dems lies in the remote chance that further stark Obama failure, and a concomitant threat to other Dem officeholders up for reelection, causes the party to drop him from its 2012 ticket.

Indeed, both groups, Jews and blacks, are now bound to the Democrats by tradition. It has been claimed that people change their spouses more often than their political parties, and it certainly appears that the tradition issue is a powerful factor in the Jews’ and blacks’ allegiance to the Democrats.

Republicans and conservatives assert that, in fact, their policies better benefit the lower economic classes, including blacks, and all Americans, by providing the means and incentives for individuals to succeed on their own, and creating more wealth and prosperity for the society as a whole.

Jews, on the other hand, are more represented in the upper economic classes, yet still vote Democrat virtually on a par with blacks, essentially against their economic interests. That is the basis for the old saying, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans,” and the concept remains essentially valid decades after the saying was coined.

Of course, the vast majority of Jewish immigrants to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were exceedingly poor. Thus their Democratic affiliation may have made sense at that time. However, their emphasis on education, entrepreneurship, and entry into the professions has resulted in a great American success story. This, in turn, has resulted in the rise of many of them to economic success in this country.

But they still vote overwhelmingly Democrat. A minority can be found among prominent Republicans and conservatives in government and politics, as well as other fields.

In addition to the tradition issue, Jews’ allegiance to the Democrats stems from their liberal/left wing views, particularly on social issues, such as abortion and concern for the poor.

Although some Jews have a concern for the well being of Israel, many do not, and the number who do is probably decreasing. And among many of those who do care about Israel, their level of concern is not great. But, given those limitations, the dissonance between the positions of those Jews who do care about Israel and the Democrat party is increasing significantly.

The Democrats have become a haven for the anti-Israel sentiment prominent among the left wing, and at least some Jews realize that the Democrats’ philosophy of a more flaccid projection of U.S. power internationally – as evidenced by their desire for disproportionate reductions in the defense budget — may gravely redound to the detriment of Israel and the United States, too.

So, who will leave the Democrats first: Blacks or Jews? Although many in both groups have good reason to, a rational outside observer would probably conclude that the Jews have more reason to.

But it’s still a toss-up. Increasing numbers of blacks may realize over time that the Democrats don’t serve their group or individual interests; most Jews may already realize that the party does not serve theirs in any tangible way, but their Democrat affiliation serves them on a psychological level, as they see themselves as on “the right side,” or with the party that “does good.”

Jews Hope their Prayers Won’t Be Answered

September 6, 2011

Or, What’s the Matter with the Jews?

Last year, in Is Rabbi Ovadia the Only Jew Who Reads the Prayer Book?, I noted the absurdity of the situation where so-called Jewish leaders inveighed against Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s comments that were entirely consistent with traditional Jewish prayers.

Unfortunately, though, the problem is broader than simply Rabbi Ovadia’s comments and his critics.  In fact, when it comes to Israel, the dominant attitudes of the American Jewish community are stark variance with the Jewish liturgy.

The Siddur Sim Shalom includes the language in the Birkat HaMazon, “Rebuild Jerusalem, the holy city, soon, in our day.” It does not say “Rebuild West Jerusalem.”

A side note – is it not interesting how the media routinely refers to all sorts of cities in Iraq and elsewhere in the Moslem world as “holy cities”, but somehow you have never heard them refer to Jerusalem as a holy city?)

In the Musaf Amidah we pray, “May it be your will… to lead us in joy to our land and to settle us within our borders.” I have also seen the language “Restore us to our homeland.”  None of the liturgy says “settle us within the 1949 armistice lines” or the non-existent “1967 borders.”

I do not know which is more rote, the recital of these traditional prayers that the mendicants actually hope will not be fulfilled, or their votes come election day for the Democrat lever.  (Granted, of course, that many of these “liberal” paragons of Jewish values never set foot in a shul.)

Several years ago, the book What’s the matter with Kansas? received wide note for asking why Kansans seemed to vote against their interests by voting Republican.  The answer was that the Kansans really were voting in line with their interests.  (If that was not obvious when the book was published, it certainly should be now!)

The  analogous yet more trenchant question is  “what’s the matter with the Jews?”  Large majority of American Jews continue to vote Democrat in the face of the continuing overwhelming evidence that the Democrats are in step with the Islamo-leftist axis, constantly working against the interests of American Jews and Israel.   (That it is also working against the interests of America as a whole and the western world is also true, but that is a somewhat different point to defend.)

Two additional recent datums illustrating the point are that every Democrat in the Congress opposed the recent UN Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act bill to restrict UN funding of anti-American, anti-Israel or anti-semitic activities.  The Obama/Hillary Clinton administration also opposed another recent bill that would stop it from giving money to the Palestinian Authority that could be used for terrorism, as Hillary said that would keep her from being able to do her job.

In sum, when leftist Jews berate Jewish conservatives or the Israeli government as betraying Jewish values, be assured they are simply displaying their own confusion between Jewish values, which their nemeses are likely upholding, but which they do not share, and their own, very different, leftist ideology.

In fact, it is an arrogant and erroneous display of chutzpah to assume that Jewish values are represented by American liberals or the Democrat party.  The primary area in which these people display any kind of liberalism is in their acceptance of the hatred displayed by their fellow “liberals”/leftists towards Israel, Jews, and Republicans and conservatives.

You Heard it Here First!

September 1, 2011

Some of the statements I made in my articles posted on these pages in recent years undoubtedly struck some readers, and especially non-readers, as outlandish.  But, sad to say, the intervening time has confirmed the truth of more of them than any of us would have liked.  Some examples follow:

With Some of the Friends We Have, We Barely Need Enemies, posted  November 30, 2009, which itself referred to previous articles I posted, discussed how Jewish and ostensibly pro-Israel organizations were actually working against those interests.  Subsequently, facts about the true nature of groups such as J-Street were revealed, prompting some, such as New York Congressman Gary Ackerman, to disavow their ties to it.

What is a “Supporter of Israel”?, originally published in 2006, was one of those articles referenced in the 2009 column.  It called to task America’s largest synagogue movement, the Union for Reform Judaism for its anti-Israel activities.  There, things have gone from bad to worse, as Eric Yoffie, its at best lukewarm to Israel leader, has been replaced by J-Streeter Jacobs.

Earlier this year, Caroline Glick wrote documenting Jewish groups aiding the enemy, and noted the formation of the Committee Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, established specifically to end Jewish Federation funding for anti-Israel activities.  The Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Federation-funded Theater J was a prime offender.

On October 4, 2009 I raised the provocative question, Who Is More Pro-Israel, Your Rabbi Or Rush Limbaugh?, using Limbaugh as shorthand for the genre of conservative talk radio hosts.  Since then, on the one hand we have seen the brave and staunch support for Israel shown by talker Glenn Beck, and on the other, the revelation of the sad yet successful leftist/anti-Israel indoctrination of rabbinical students in some seminaries.

Further, I discovered an old file of material from a “Zionism” course I took in the mid-1970’s at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary.  So what did I find that our “leaders” indoctrinated us with, even back then?  Yes, the Israel-hatred of Chomsky!

The New American Jewish Bible, August 23, 2009, stated that the New York Times and other analogous left-wing  media outlets had supplanted the Torah in large parts of the Jewish community.  So I was not totally shocked when in June of this year, the newly named editor of that newspaper, born-Jewish Jill Abramson proclaimed “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion.”  But somehow, I have a feeling that I should be able to collect from her for plagiarism.

[Apparently, saying the Times substitutes for religion is still not PC enough for them to publicly admit, so the “Newspaper of Record” removed it from the on-line record.  Or is it their fear of being called on her plagiarism?]

Were Jewish Obama Voters Fooled?, dated August 23, 2009, asked a question that has become much more common since.  I concluded many were not fooled, but some now say they were.

Is Obama Stupid?, September 22, 2009, came to the affirmative conclusion.  His sheen of intellectual brilliance has by now worn off among some of his erstwhile worshippers.  [Perhaps his refusal to release his academic records now seems wiser every day.]  As documented in instances far too numerous to note here, what his admirers derided as the “cowboy diplomacy” of his predecessor has been replaced by Obama’s Cretin Diplomacy.

J’Accuse! of August 28, 2009 stated that much of the anti-Israel invective found around the world was actually anti-semitic in nature.  In the last two years, many more thinkers and authors have realized that and said so.

Posted last year, Goodbye, America asked whether America was at a turning point, beyond which recovery from the critical mass of leftist momentum which has infested it would be close to impossible.  Since then, millions of Americans, led by Tea Party adherents, have realized this danger.  One obvious manifestation is the now widely apparent looming menace of the ever-increasing national debt.

Perhaps the most prescient of my earlier writings was Israel (and America) Will Rue the Day that George W. Bush Leaves Office, published in mid-2008 on the now defunct israelenews.com.  The column made clear that none of the leading US presidential candidates was either truly good for America or Israel.  And by any measure, Obama was without question the worst of the lot.  So it did not take long before, as his mentor Pastor Jeremiah Wright had said, “the chickens were coming home to roost.”

My assertions here that these astonishing developments are now more widely acknowledged and documented may warrant even more incredulity than when I raised them originally as simply my conclusions.  But they are now easily verified to anyone’s satisfaction simply with some Google searching.

As a final note, I am aware that displaying a jaundiced eye is not particularly conducive to popularity; neither is being right.

Looking for an “extremely safe and wonderful” vacation spot? Johns Hopkins Prof Recommends Syria

August 19, 2011

Glenn Schwartz, professor of archaeology, at the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences in Baltimore says, “In reality, it’s extremely safe and wonderful to travel as an American in Syria.”

I suppose that’s if you like seeing thousands of civilians killed by the regime.

He also happened to forget to add that travelers surely better not reveal any evidence of having traveled to our ally Israel.

This is in the current issue of the Johns Hopkins Magazine, available at http://magazine.jhu.edu/2011/06/oh-the-places-they-go/.

The context of his assertion:

Schwartz calls Syria a “hidden gem” and suspects most Americans avoid traveling there because of safety concerns. He says those fears are mostly unfounded (though he does acknowledge that, given current political events in the Near East, the situation may be tense and uncertain for travel right now). “In reality, it’s extremely safe and wonderful to travel as an American in Syria.” Tourism infrastructure is bountiful, with hotels for every budget and many fine restaurants and historic sites, he adds. “Hospitality is important and Syrians are friendly, welcoming people.”

But perhaps Professor Schwartz can be excused — after all, the Hillary Clinton/John Kerry crowd that the academics revere was telling us until recently that Assad is a “reformer”, and other such nonsense.

Schwartz also adds sophisticated insight such as, “Don’t forget to pack: A hat and layers of clothing to protect against the sun.”

It’s a great article typifying the myopia and idiocy of so much of academia today, and particularly anything there relating to the mid-east.

And one to remember when your alma mater tries to tell you how worthy they are of your hard-earned financial contributions.


Is Rabbi Ovadia the Only Jew Who Reads the Prayer Book?

September 7, 2010

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s ill wishes towards Israel’s Palestinian Arab enemies, including the Palestinian Authority and its Holocaust–denier President, elicited disdain and disavowals from much of the leadership of Israel and the Jewish world.

Rabbi Ovadia’s “words do not reflect the approach of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, nor the position of the government of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Jewish Theological Seminary and related groups said, “As leaders of the Conservative/Masorti movement, we deplore these recent comments of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef”.

ADL leader Abe Foxman said, “We are outraged by the offensive and incendiary comments made by Rav Ovadia Yosef.”  And the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations added, “We are disturbed by the reported comments of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.”

Why these entities have reacted this way is an interesting question.

This is even putting aside the paternalistic attitude of superiority so commonly used to justify ignoring the constant barrage of hate and incitement to genocide that emanates from many of Israel and Judaism’s enemies, both from Palestinian Arabs and others (most notoriously, Iran).   And that vitriol is not voiced just by an individual — but is promulgated by their governments and their leaders, including Israel’s purported “partners for peace.”

But I was gratified to learn that I was not the only one who found the situation peculiar.  In a letter published on the Jerusalem Post’s website, Chana Pinto accurately and articulately pointed out that in our prayers, Jews beseech G_d to defeat our enemies.  For example, the Amida includes “Frustrate the hopes of those who malign us,” and “Let all your enemies be speedily destroyed.”

So is Rabbi Ovadia the only prominent Jew who reads the prayer book?  Are the other Jewish leaders ignorant of our prayers in the prayer books they themselves publish? Are they akin to America’s legislators who now routinely pass multi-thousand page bills without reading them or knowing what is in them, much less understanding and reflecting on their implications?

Or is it that these other Jewish leaders are aware of their prayers, but Rabbi Ovadia is the only one who means it when he says them?

Perhaps if the Conservative leaders and their Reform counterparts (who,  of course, also attacked Rabbi Ovadia) are so offended by their own prayers, they should change them.  If Obama and his Democrats can ram their unwanted legislation down the throats of Americans, perhaps these Jewish leaders can change our prayers to be more consonant with their political and worldly sensibilities.

This controversy over the Rabbi’s remarks reminded me of a similar hypocrisy that occurred during George W. Bush’s presidency.  Bush was well known to have been inspired by his faith and G_d during his time in office.  And he was routinely and vitriolically mocked and criticized for doing so.  Many Jews  were among those so criticizing him.

But reference the “Prayer for Our Country,” a commonly recited Shabbat and Festival prayer in Conservative (and other) American congregations.  The prayer includes the plea to G_d, “teach them (our ‘leader and advisors and all who exercise just and rightful authority’) insights of Your Torah so they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security…may forever abide in our midst”.

So these Jews who criticized Bush for being inspired by the Bible were criticizing him for doing precisely what they were praying for him to do!  Just as today Rabbi Ovadia is pilloried for asking for just what we ask for in prayer.  In both cases, of course, the prayers may have been so rote as to be less than sincere.

But the key answer to the question as to why so many people claimed offense at the Rabbi’s remarks is two-fold.  One is that throughout the world, most people don’t want Israel to prevail in its struggle, and Israeli and Jewish leaders are sensitive to that sentiment.

Second, and more important, is the widespread and tragic refusal by Israelis, Jews, and westerners in general, to acknowledge that Israel is at war.   Israel is at war with Palestinian Arabs, not just the Gazans. (Hey, if it’s not a state of war, why do we need peace talks?  Does this enemy to whose defense the Israeli government and Jews throughout the world are rushing even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state?  Last time I checked, no.  And the enemy even says that it never will.)

Related to the refusal to acknowledge the state of war is, on the part of many, a lack of understanding of what war actually entails.  That results in horror when the enemy is killed, injured, or even inconvenienced (e.g. think “checkpoints” and “blockade”).

As has been learned over the course of  human history, Israel will never achieve the security of peace until it defeats its enemies.  And as has also been true throughout human history, Israel will never be able to defeat its enemies by being nice to them, or even by loving them.  Love bombs don’t work.  Real ordnance is needed.

And if G_d provides help, all the better.

The Top Ten Reasons Jews Voted for Obama

August 31, 2010

With the November U.S. Congressional elections approaching, it may be instructive to examine why the approximately 80% of Jewish Americans who voted for Obama in 2008 did so.  Thus, below are ten major reasons.  They are not in any particular order, but the reader is invited to assign rankings based on his experience with these voters.

Some of the reasons are obviously related to each other, and most of these voters chose him for a combination of these arguments:

  1. “Obama will support Israel and be good for Israel.”
  2. “He will screw Israel, but that will be good for Israel.”
  3. “I don’t care about Israel.”
  4. “If McCain wins, he will pack the courts with right wing extremists like himself (the Democrat Senate, whose approval would be required for confirmation notwithstanding).  And that would be a grave blow to “Jewish values” such as homosexual marriage and abortion on demand.”
  5. “Obama is so cool; everybody I know is voting for him.”  (He can read a teleprompter.)
  6. “He is the Democrat.  I have always voted Democrat.  What, change now?”
  7. “He is black!”
  8. “Not voting for him would be racist!”
  9. “It’s a vote towards tikkun olam.  That stems from my inherited yet possibly subconscious socialistic proclivities, so obviously shared by Obama (e.g. more ‘spread the wealth around’).”
  10. “The media I follow (major newspapers and radio and TV networks) blessed him.  (See The New American Jewish Bible.) They said he’s kosher.  In fact, even better than kosher – he’s great! They revealed no skeletons in his closet of any kind.”

Voters throughout the world often make choices for fatuous and superficial reasons. (Isn’t it interesting how often the candidate with the best hair wins?)  The 2008 U.S. elections were a good example of superficial decision-making by voters.  Perhaps enough of them have seen the tragic results for American liberty and prosperity (not to mention Israel’s security — e.g. think “Iran”) to help stem that negative tide with their next votes come November.

Goodbye, America (II)

July 29, 2010

There is a bit more to add to my article last week (http://markgold.wordpress.com/goodbye-america/) lamenting the imminent demise of the United States of America as we have known it. I stated that our government is working at full intensity to destroy traditional America, with its values of individualism and freedom. It attacks our patriots and our friends, and coddles our enemies, foreign and domestic. And we are likely past the tipping point; the many forces opposing traditional America have become entrenched and have surpassed critical mass.

Further evidence of this sad state of affairs was provided this week by the vacuous, yet politically motivated and unjustifiable decision by the federal judge Bolton enjoining the Arizona illegal immigrant law from even taking initial effect. Regretfully, her decision is all too emblematic of destructive action against the rights of the citizenry by an all-too-pervasive left-wing activist judiciary.

I noted last week the optimistic view that the November elections would enable the country to reverse course.  However, even in the unlikely event that these elections bring many true patriots to Congress, it is wholly unrealistic to think that the new Congress would be able to reverse the anti-American direction the country has been taking. At best, it could slow down the march to ruin, given the continuing executive branch regime (and courts).

A much discussed example has been that the next Congress could repeal the recently passed health system “reform” law. That is absurd and wishful thinking of the highest magnitude. That Obama would sign such a repeal of his signature initiative? Of course not; he would veto any repeal bill! It could be repealed over his veto only with a two-thirds vote by both houses, which ain’t gonna happen.

Sorry for the bad news folks.

Last War Wiesenthal

April 19, 2010

This column was going to be about a few of the most flagrant, unreported myths of our time – like “CNN, the most trusted name in news.”   Well, at least that’s good for a laugh!

Another of the myths I was going to tackle was some variation of “Jews are smart”, “Jewish leaders are smart,” and “Jewish organizations are looking out for you.”

But then I received the latest fundraising letter from the Simon Weisenthal Center.  Just analyzing this letter provides an excellent opportunity to address the latter group of myths.

Today’s Weisenthal Center still uses the name of its storied, intrepid Nazi-hunter namesake, but I surmise that Simon Weisenthal would be rolling over in his grave if he knew how craven the organization that bears his name is today.

The fundraising letter lists a number of the recent attacks and threats to Jews and Israel.  It tells us that there are lots of people out there who hate Jews and Israel and seek to kill us.  But no where does it tell us why. Nor does it tell us where the hatred is emanating from.  No where does the Weisenthal Center let on to having any knowledge of Islam being a factor in the hatred and attacks.  No where does the letter mention the words Islam, Muslim, or jihad. 

Could the Weisenthal Center be ignorant that religion is a factor?  In fact, of course, it is the major factor.  Or is the problem that Obama told them that the hatred is due to Jews living in Jerusalem? And that it is not Muslims who have the problem with that and have brought most of the world on board with them in their hatred?  Did Obama tell his friends at the Weisenthal Center not to mention that it is Muslims who are behind the hatred and anti-semitism?  Or was it just some big left-wing donor who doesn’t want it mentioned?  (Even I would be surprised if it turns out to be because the Weisenthal Center is taking Arab money, but J Street does it, so why is that inconceivable?)

The letter rightly mentions the Presbyterian Church, and it rightly mentions Iran.  But you could just as soon conclude from the Weisenthal Center’s letter that Iran is a Christian country.

So the Weisenthal Center won’t, or can’t, even identify the root source of the hatred we face.  And, of course, being unwilling or unable to name the enemy hardly bodes well for defeating it.  Maybe they don’t want to.  But at least they are politically correct for the left-wing circles they travel in.

Unfortunately, the Weisenthal Center is not alone in this syndrome among U.S. Jewish organizations.  For one other example, I recall a very similar fundraising letter from the American Jewish Congress.

I previously discussed the problem of Jewish organizations more generally in Time to Retire (Most of) the Old-Line American Jewish Organizations.

One final thought – if American Jews are really so smart, would they have voted for Obama to the tune of almost 80%?  And they even voted for him in large numbers in the primaries, when they had other Democrats (the most important criterion) to choose from.  (Answer:  No, they are no so smart at all!)



If Only Businesses Were Like the IRS…

March 24, 2010

This tax season got me wondering:  What if private enterprise treated its customers as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (and its Congressional and Executive branch masters) treats us taxpayers?

For example, if your phone company treated you as the IRS treats us, this is how your billing would work:

While the company knows the details of your calls, you would be required every year to add up the costs of each call, and list and report them by categories the company arbitrarily devises.  If you leave some out, or add the numbers wrongly, the company could come after you, get you to pay the right amount, fine you, and even get you incarcerated.  (While the IRS knows most details of your income from the burdensome reporting it imposes on payers, it won’t tell you what it knows until after you tell it what you think.  Of course, it could tell you what it knows it the first place, but that would relieve you of the burden of compiling the information, and would give a semblance of being taxpayer friendly vs. bureaucrat friendly, so that is out of the question.)

You would have to report your calls separately on different forms by often meaningless categories, such as short, medium, or long distance calls, to odd or even numbers, type of phone, length of call, and whether made or received.  Ridiculous?  Then why do we have to separate dividends from interest from wages from long term capital gains from short term capital gains, from business income, and on in finitum?  And again, when the IRS already knows these answers?

The company would give you outdated forms for reporting, having never adapted them to recent decades, much less the present.  For example, it might tell you to list all your text messages on a worksheet, then put the total on the main form, rather than taking the trouble itself to adapt the form to current requirements.  That is how the IRS treats items such as “qualified dividends” and capital gains distributions today.  But again  — the IRS already knows the answer; as a taxpayer, you are simply a targeted victim for the game of “gotcha.”

Perhaps the phone company, as does the government, would want to use its billing rules to encourage certain behaviors.  They might assess a penalty for calls made while driving – for which you would have to fill out extra convoluted forms.  And then, if you go over or below certain thresholds, you have to start your reporting over because all the numbers change.  The IRS is especially fond of that technique – whether your income is above or below certain thresholds determines whether various deductions (e.g., for IRAs) are allowed, or penalties are applied (e.g. alternative minimum tax).

Like the IRS, your phone company — and every other major company you deal with — would give you a hundred page booklet with instructions as to how to comply with their fiats.  But you might need extra forms to comply, and you would be on your own to procure them.

Another analogy to the IRS treatment would be a supermarket that scanned your purchases, but made you add them up yourself  — and would possibly prosecute you as a shoplifter/criminal if your total came up short.  Presumably, the store would allow the supermarket division of TurboTax to set up in the parking lot, where for an extra fee they could help you calculate what you owe.

The store would also give you a hundred page booklet of instructions.  After all, its management might have decided that special rules must apply to anyone who purchases two cans of anchovies and seven bottles of beer.  The booklet would be full of special rules for similarly rare or trivial situations.

State governments are hardly better.  They search for their own way of gratuitously exacting pain, and not just financial pain.  The Commonwealth of Virginia, for example, orders its taxpayers to repeatedly write their names on the same page of the return – reminiscent of having to write the same thing over and over on an elementary school blackboard.

You would think that all taxpayers would have realized by now that any desire to be forced to deal more extensively or exclusively with government agencies – such as via further government regulation of health insurance or other businesses — is insanity.  But, sad to say, that apparently is not the case.


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