Archive for March, 2010

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The company would give you outdated forms for reporting, having never adapted them to recent decades, much less the present.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.

We Warned You — So Now What?

March 18, 2010

In mid-2008, I published Israel (and America) Will Rue the Day that George W. Bush Leaves Office on the now defunct israelenews.com.  The column made clear that while none of the leading US presidential candidates were either truly good for American or friends of Israel, and by any measure, Obama was without question the worst of the lot.  So now, as his mentor Pastor Jeremiah Wright has said, “the chickens are coming home to roost.”

But do American Jews, who overwhelmingly supported Wright’s parishioner, care?  Outside of an uncharacteristic objection from the ADL’s Abe Foxman, who usually saves his protestations for conservatives, and a handful of Congressional Democrats, I haven’t heard many objections  from Obama’s court Jews.  And why not?  That was answered in Were Jewish Obama Voters Fooled?, published last year.

Nobody should be surprised by the actions of Obama and his team of the Islamo-leftist coalition.  Saddened and worried, yes, of course, but surprised, no.  As Obama lapped up the anti-Israel venom of his Pastor Wright for 20 years and other like-minded friends, of course he would come to have a one-sided view, and it wouldn’t be kind to Israel.

You may remember his apologists and other “experts” telling us:

  • Obama wants to be a domestic president, and will be too busy to worry about the poor Palestinians.
  • Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, China, et. al. would be more important mid east and world problems, and the Palestinians would take a back burner.
  • the Washington establishment would force him to take a largely traditional, consensus position.
  • Obama learned his lesson after his full ‘settlement freeze’ demand fiasco, and would now moderate his position.

So here we go again — more demands for unreciprocated concessions by Israel.  We know that, unfortunately, hatred of Jews and Israel is often ingrained and reflexive, no matter how irrational.

Because it is an error to ascribe rationality to others, especially an enemy, it is an error to assume that once they learn the facts or the folly of their ways, they will change course.  Perhaps a mild case of the suicide bomber?

So what can Israel do?  Be guided by the maxim that the sooner Arabs and the world accept Israel’s legitimacy, its strength, and its permanence, the sooner peace will be possible.  (Thus little wonder Arabs began rioting coincident with the Obama administration’s harsh words for Israel.  And also not so coincidentally, just as the Gazans intensified their rocket attacks on the very day Obama won election in November 2008, which immediately precipitated the Gaza War.)

So no more concessions for nothing!  And because it was not news to anybody who cared to pay attention to the facts that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and within its sovereignty, Israel should NOT have apologized even for the timing of the announcement of the Jerusalem apartment construction approval.   To the many clowns who call it a “settlement,” the Western Wall must be also be a “settlement.”  Israel must tell the world the area is part of Jewish Israel, to butt out of its internal affairs, to get over it, and if they don’t like it, they can lump it.  And if they want concessions from Israel, they can come back and ask once the Arabs actually make some.  And that doesn’t mean some two-bit gulf state allowing a one-bit “interest section”.

For starters, it might mean a formal recognition by Israel’s enemies of its rights as a Jewish state, a genuine ending of Palestinian groups’ charters calling for the destruction of Israel, and a real end to PA and state-sponsored incitement.

Israel’s enemies think pre-conditions for talks are a good idea. How about these for pre-conditions?