Truth on income inequality
Scott Hodge writing in the Wall Street Journal : President Obama has talked a lot recently about reducing income inequality. Yet he neither acknowledges how much money the government is redistributing, nor how much more would be needed to close the income gap. Perhaps that’s because the project would require redistribution on a staggering scale.
That’s the upshot of two separate studies published in November 2013 by the Congressional Budget Office and the Tax Foundation.
While they used slightly different methodologies, each study measured the amount of existing redistribution by the federal government — by comparing how much Americans get back in total federal spending (everything from transfer programs to national defense) to how much they pay in all federal taxes (everything from income taxes to excise taxes).
Both studies show that the federal tax-and-spending system already is extremely progressive and redistributive.
Looking at prerecession data for non-elderly households in 2006 in “The Distribution of Federal Spending and Taxes in 2006,” the CBO found that those in the bottom fifth, or quintile, of the income scale received $9.62 in federal spending for every $1 they paid in federal taxes of all kinds.
Nor is it surprising that households in the top fifth received 17 cents in federal spending for every $1 they paid in all federal taxes. High-income households hand over a disproportionate amount in taxes relative to what they get back in spending.
The overwhelming conclusion is that, as a group, the vast majority of Americans receive more back from government in spending than they pay in taxes.
Even this large amount of redistribution falls far short of closing the inequality gap. So how much more redistribution would be needed to make every family equal? Quite a lot, it turns out.
The gender debate
Alec Torres, writing for National Review Online: It’s getting harder to know how to refer to another person’s gender(s). Now, Facebook is making it even harder.
The Associated Press recently broke the news that Facebook now offers users a customizable gender option with about 50 different gender-identifying terms people can use to describe themselves along with three separate pronoun choices: him, her, or them.
The grammatical debate over the application of the plural pronoun “them” to a singular subject aside, it’s a sad sign of the times that Facebook excluded whatever the 51st gender descriptor is, thus committing a hate crime against the dozens of people who probably describe themselves with said descriptor.
(For a necessarily incomplete list of possible gender identities, please see the website genderqueerid.com. If you feel you identify with none of the terms on the list, the website is most likely phobic of whatever you may be.)
“There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world,” said Brielle Harrison, a Facebook engineer who is currently changing gender from male to female.
For all the slighted genders, Facebook continues to offer the option to denote no gender or to choose “neither” or “other.”
IRS still in hot water
Veronique de Rugy writing in the Washington Examiner : The Internal Revenue Service has been in some hot water lately for allegedly targeting political enemies.
In 2013, it was revealed that the federal tax agency systematically hassled and unfairly scrutinized nonprofit organizations applying for tax-exempt status, simply on the basis of their names or assumed political leanings.
The fact that most victims were organizations that had Tea Party- or conservative-sounding names was a big red flag of government-backed political harassment.
So far, the issue is unresolved. The House Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means committees have been holding hearings to determine wrongdoing and responsibility.
State-backed political abuse is horrible on its own, but these are not the only questionable decisions made by the IRS.
Consider this: The U.S. tax code has become so horribly complicated over the years that taxpayers have a hard time figuring out how to even comply with the whole thing.
To help taxpayers navigate their Borgesian maze of itemized deductions and conditional credits, the IRS runs a call center to assist and answer questions. According to the IRS’ mission statement, its job is to help taxpayers navigate this tax maze so they can “meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.”
Well, not lately. An internal review from the IRS reports that its customer service representatives are answering fewer “customer” calls and keeping callers on hold for longer periods.
That’s right: The federal government created a terribly complicated tax code and then decided that it will take its time answering taxpayers’ hardest questions about the whole mess. Meanwhile, if you mess up your tax forms, it won’t hesitate to call you for answers.