Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

IRS, Illegal Aliens and Disney

Well, folks, amidst a very occupied and draining schedule, I am posting again, thus sparing the life of one more kitten to exacerbate my allergies.

As previously reported, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson has stepped down and is now heading the American Red DoubleCross. Kevin Brown is now minding the store at the IRS as Acting Commissioner. He has already hit the ground running.

On 7 May 2007, Commissioner Brown appeared at the National Press Club to announce the IRS's partnering with the United Way in the UW's "Financial Stability" initiative; specifically, to "provide education and outreach materials related to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)."

While I certainly applaud the IRS's taxpayer education outreach efforts, my training and experience inside and outside the IRS cause me to be more than a little bit skeptical:

A) The IRS's organizational culture, for all of its shortcomings, is specifically geared towards COLLECTING taxes, not dispensing charity to the poor. Whenever the IRS gets involved in anything external to its real mission, there is the risk of a clash between its organizational culture and its collateral objectives. While public education is certainly a worthwhile objective and indeed, to a certain extent vital to the IRS's mission, the IRS is not really the best organization to educate the public.

B) For that very reason, it certainly makes sense for the IRS to engage a human service oriented organization such as the United Way to perform the public education function. The IRS is engaging expertise to do what it effectively cannot do, much like some Jewish households have been known to engage a "Shabbos Goy, a Gentile who can turn on or off the lights and do other work on the Sabbath which a Jew is prohibited from doing [N.B. In my own household, we use $10 electric timers instead of Shabbos Goyim. One advantage of this is that we don't run afoul of the largely unenforced laws against hiring illegal aliens. Besides, the electric timers are cheaper than the Shabbos Goyim.].

But this, too, has its pitfalls. The IRS has, for the past few years, been engaged in a crackdown on the nonprofit organizations. Now the IRS is in bed with an organization it must regulate. What sort of controls, checks and balances are in place?

C) Speaking of illegal aliens, the EITC is a windfall for illegal aliens, notwithstanding Congressional efforts to keep the illegals from sticking their hands in the till. Accordingly, the IRS is effectively participating in a scheme to instruct illegal aliens to tap into the EITC as a source of income, thus supporting them with our hard-earned tax money.

D) The partnering of governmental agencies with private sector entities certainly has great positive potential, but there is a downside, especially where there is a quid pro quo (or appearance of a quid pro quo). The Library of Congress has a "Coca-Cola Fellowship" to subsidize the scholarly study of advertising, and Coca Cola got its share of advertising in the Library of Congress building during the ceremony where Coke donated its archives. And when booksellers such as Barnes & Noble partner with public libraries, at what point does the purveyor of books exercise too much say-so over the public library's collection development policies? Why, even the rights to the public library's vending machines are a valuable commodity!

With due regard for the public benefit that comes of such collaboration between the governmental agency and the private sector, one must beware of the slippery slope towards the disneyfication of government. And before you say that I'm way out over the left field foul line, note that the process of Disneyfication has actually begun to occur at the U.S. Postal Service! Make no mistake about it: Disney definitely benefits from each of those Mickey Mouse stamps you buy.

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