Today is tax day, when I swing conservative more than any other day of the year. You may have noticed my conversion to libertarian politics last night: as the moon turned red and eventually disappeared, I began to agree with Ron Paul. I paid my taxes yesterday at an effective rate of 24%. By contrast, Mitt Romney famously paid 14% in 2011. I did not make Romney money last year, but I paid nearly double Romney’s rate, thanks to the self-employment tax. I am here to tell you that the self-employment tax is bullshit.
If you want to understand the problem of false equivalence in political reporting, consider this article from the Wall Street Journal about new IRS rules governing the political activities of 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations. The designation is intended for social welfare organizations, but it also covers the NRA and a slough of Tea Party groups, whose primary contribution to social welfare is relentless advocacy for their own legislative and political interests. As the Journal puts it in the story’s second paragraph:
Rules proposed Tuesday could at once help to curb the explosion in political spending by nonprofit groups, such as conservative heavyweight Crossroads GPS and the liberal Priorities USA, while setting clearer standards that could help the government avoid future dust-ups with politically active nonprofit organizations.
It sounds like Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA are two sides of the same dark-money coin, right? Except nine paragraphs later, we learn that Crossroads raised $180 million in 2011-2012, and Priorities raised $10.7 million.
Last week, we discussed the IRS/Tea Party scandal and the problem of distinguishing social welfare organizations from political groups. Noted parser of fine distinctions Ben al-Fowlkes sent me this follow-up article from the New York Times, in which intrepid reporters who are probably interns researched some of the complainant groups. It’s an interesting read throughout, but it reaches a boiling point of surreality with the last two paragraphs. Quote:
…[T]he Ohio Liberty Coalition, another Tea Party group that has complained about the scrutiny it received from the I.R.S.,… canvassed neighborhoods, handing out Romney campaign “door hangers,” Mr. Zawistowski said. The I.R.S. usually considers such activities to be partisan. But when Mr. Zawistowski consulted his group’s lawyers, he said, he came away understanding that the I.R.S. was most concerned with radio or television advertising. He said he believed that other activities, like distributing literature for the Romney campaign, would not raise concerns. “It’s not political activity,” he said.
At least one of the groups that applied for 501(c)(4) status in the last few years claims that going door-to-door on behalf of a candidate for president is not a political activity. How does one deal with/in such mendacity?
Congressional hearings into news that the IRS singled out conservative political groups applying for tax-exempt status is either a tempest in a teapot or a tempest issuing from the mouth of a tyrannical socialist dragon, depending on which news outlet you read. Mitch McConnell says that the heightened scrutiny of Tea Party organizations reflects a “culture of intimidation” in the Obama administration, which is kind of a weird assertion in light of claims that the President also covered it up. As often happens in our brave modern news cycle, the question of what the IRS did has been elbowed aside by questions of who knew what about what the IRS did, whether what the president might have known they did constitutes an impeachable offense, and how “so many Americans knew this was happening,” as Sarah Palin claims. Now you can know what’s happening, too, simply by reading this 55-page report.
Say you’re a certain political party that, for reasons totally beyond your control, suffered an electoral defeat in 2008 so humiliating that it seemed to dictate a wholesale reevaluation of your priorities. Everyone predicted that you would founder for decades, but then—miraculously—your politics experienced a sudden resurgence. According to the national news media, at least, thousands across the country rallied not just around your principles, but around a crazy, exaggerated version of your principles—one so dedicated and extreme that it took even you by surprise. Of course, you jumped on this public groundswell with both feet, chanting along and adopting the rhetoric of your most wild-eyed supporters. It seemed great for a while, but now you’ve got a problem. The engine is losing steam; you’ve gone as far down the track as rhetoric can take you, and it’s only given you a better look at how far you have left to go. Crazy talk has been great for getting you on the news and misinforming the public, but the time for crazy talk is over. Now is the time for crazy action.