When the private tax returns of billionaires were leaked to a left-wing group, liberals and conservatives reacted very differently. Liberals fell for the political trick and immediately said that the tax code was unfair and the rich should get a tax hike. Conservatives saw through the conspiracy and wanted answers on how the Deep State at the IRS could, once again, have so much unchecked power for political purposes. When it comes to outrage, liberals always protest louder, so conservatives have to respond better.
The billionaires' actual tax returns were “provided” to the leftist activist group called ProPublica. It says it has “a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years.” It alleges that:
The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg.
ProPublica never explains that whoever gave them these documents broke multiple federal laws. The end justifies the means in their worldview.
The FBI is investigating the leak. House Republicans have demanded IRS Commissioner Charles Retting keep Congress informed on the investigation and have hearings into any “evidence of political influence or motivations.”
Partisan politics at the IRS
The stunning revelation that the IRS released private tax returns was overshadowed by the juicy details, like Jeff Bezos didn't pay any income taxes in 2007 and 2011 and neither did Elon Musk in 2018. (We aren’t told if they lost money those years to explain this.)
The billionaires picked to use for this political hit job were chosen because they are extremely wealthy and household names. There are many more millionaires who no one would recognize that likely have more income, rather than wealth, so they wouldn’t fit the narrative.
The Left has been jumping all over the billionaires' low tax rates but never considered that every American will see the horrible breach of privacy by Uncle Sam as a threat to themselves too. That’s why when I saw the leak, my first thought was, this is Lois Lerner all over again.
To remind you, Lerner was the head of the tax exempt division of the IRS that targeted conservative groups from 2010 to 2012, the height of the “Tea Party” movement. Lener admitted what they did — delaying tax-exempt status applications and harassing the groups that sounded right of center — and took the FIfth when she was called before Congress. Everyone at the IRS who had a hand in the political scandal got off without charges.
I looked around to find what Lerner is doing now. It’s pretty easy to find her and her lawyer husband, Michael Miles. They are both 70-years-old and have lived in the same Bethesda house since 1998 that is now worth about $2 million. She most likely is still receiving her $100,000 a year government pension. There were no consequences for the horrendous abuse of power.
Biden tax hikes
Ostensibly, ProPublica is using the stolen returns to show the public that the super rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. It is supposed to be a revelation that the richer you are, the more you can hire the fanciest and most clever accountants to take advantage of every tax break.
Anyway, the real reason for this stunning power move to drop IRS forms to the public is clearly to promote Pres. Joe Biden’s budget agenda. The timing of this leak and the exact perfect messaging is not a coincidence. ProPublica writes:
The revelations provided by the IRS data come at a crucial moment. Wealth inequality has become one of the defining issues of our age. The president and Congress are considering the most ambitious tax increases in decades on those with high incomes.
The Left wants the public to hate the rich enough to support demands to raise taxes and increase the budget and power of the IRS. Biden’s budget, called the “American Families Plan”, was released on April 28 and calls for lots of government freebies that are funded by taxing the rich. He wants to increase the top tax rate from 37 to 39.6 percent and increase the capital gains tax rate to 39.6 percent.
Biden also wants to increases the power of the IRS by spending $80 billion on “enforcement against those with the highest incomes.” By the way, Biden’s term is “increase investment in the IRS.” That means he will invest and get bigger returns by having more agents rifling through tax returns to get more money. Do you really think the IRS — where Lois Lerner went for years without getting stopped —will only target the billionaires?
Even if you want to just debate the information that ProPublica posted on the billionaires’ taxes, it doesn’t fit the facts. CATO did a great analysis (link at bottom, chart summary below) to show how the clickbait headline “You May Be Paying a Higher Tax Rate Than a Billionaire” is just factually wrong.
The tax code is already heavily progressive. Americans for Tax Reform’s analysis of a new report from the Joint Committee on Taxation shows:
Taxpayers making $1 million and up pay an average federal tax rate of 31.5% while the bottom half of income earners ($63,179 or less) pay an average federal tax rate of 6.3%. That’s nearly five times as much in taxes as a percentage of income.
The rich already fund most of the government. The Heritage Foundation, which made the cool graphic below to illustrate the concept, reports that the top 1% of income earners paid 40% of all the federal income taxes. The top 10% earners paid 71% of the federal income taxes.
This number has always struck me because -- you can do the math too-- 90% of us are only paying for one third of the total government spending. This is why I’ve always supported the flat tax. Everyone should be participating in funding the government — even the lowers income owners — and stop all the tax breaks and schemes. I spend days every year on TurboTax and still come out with using the standard deduction. It’s a waste of time.
ProPublica has a graphic (below) that is supposed to make it easy for people to get angry at the billionaires for reducing their tax bill. But look at it this way: Jeff Bezos paid almost $1 billion in taxes. Elon Musk paid almost half that. These successful businessmen are funding entire government agencies. A busload of the rest of us couldn’t come up with that kind of cash.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also thought of Lerner’s get out of jail free card this week in a floor speech (below.)
Referring to both the Lerner-led Obama administration targeting conservative groups and the release of the National Organization for Marriage returns, McConnell said:
These situations all have two things in common. First, a blatant political agenda aimed at advancing the cause of the political left. And second, the utter absence of criminal charges against the leakers.
The federal government has proven far too often that it is, at best incapable, and at worst unwilling, to protect taxpayers’ data from misuse by the political left.
The left vs right on billionaire taxes
Conservatives took this news so differently because we are inherently suspicious of the government. And, unlike liberals, we admire success and want the rich to do well because it means better jobs and economy. We want to be rich too. That is the American dream.
I hosted a YouTube show on Monday, and we discussed the FBI investigation into the leak of IRS forms to the left-wing ProPublica. I read some of the 1,200 comment on the video from the angry liberal, socialist audience. They mostly hate me for saying there is more to the issue than showing how the rich are paying taxes at a lower rate. The audience fell hook, line and sinker for the IRS/ProPublica tactic and did not want me to tell them that the people who broke federal laws were not the billionaires.
I expected their attacks on me personally because that is how they fight politics- dehumanize the messenger. The comment that surprised me is the one that said that the former hosts — who they miss — would never have told them that there was anything more the story other than billionaires don’t pay enough in taxes. They did not want more facts, they actually prefer to be scammed by the political powers. And that is always the split in how liberals and conservatives consider policies — feelings or facts. When you make a policy decision on your emotions, you are not capable of debating with a rational idea or substantive position, so you attack like a wild animal.
LINKS TO SOURCES:
ProPublica The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax & You May Be Paying a Higher Tax Rate Than a Billionaire Americans for Tax Reform: JCT Confirms: Tax Code is Already Steeply Progressive The Joint Committee on Taxation: Tax Gap: Overview Of Federal Tax Provisions And Analysis Of Selected Issues The Heritage Foundation In 1 Chart, How Much the Rich Pay in Taxes CATO ProPublica Analysis of Taxes on Wealthy The Hill "Rising" -- Colin and Emily: What Billionaire Tax Story REVEALS About Our Tax System House Ways and Means Committee Brady Briefed by IRS Commissioner Rettig on Leak of Sensitive Taxpayer Information & Letter to IRS House Oversight Committee- Republicans Demand Hearing on Massive IRS Leak of Americans’ Sensitive Information White House Fact Sheet: The American Families Plan C-SPAN Lois Lerner testimony
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