Everyone hates the IRS. Even the mothers of its agents hate the tax-collection agency. And that sentiment rises to new levels around this time of year.
On his HBO show last night, John Oliver said those feeling are only natural: “Is it any wonder that everyone hates the IRS?” he said. “Dealing with them is obligatory. It often functions badly. And it combines two of the things we hate most in life: someone taking our money and math.”
Still, Oliver went on to “attempt the impossible”: making viewers feel at least a smidgen of sympathy for the tax man — and explaining why our widespread hatred may be misguided. It’s Congress, after all, that writes the tax code. And it’s Congress that has made it harder for the agency to do its job by cutting the IRS budget from $13.4 billion in 2010 to $10.9 billion this year. As BusinessWeek just said in its latest cover story, "if you think paying your taxes is bad, try working at America's most unloved agency."
“I’m not saying the IRS is a likeable organization,” Oliver said. “But not everything that’s important is likeable. Think of our government as a body. The IRS is the anus. It’s nobody’s favorite part. But you need that thing working properly…”
It’s not that we should love the IRS, or even like them, Oliver said. But the agency deserves “a few minutes of at least grudging acknowledgment of the unpleasant, necessary function they serve.” And to provide that, Oliver brought on the singer who might be even more despised than IRS: Michael Bolton.
Watch the segment below (warning: it includes HBO-appropriate language):
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The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated this week that President Trump has now signed legislation that will add a total of $4.7 trillion to the national debt between 2017 and 2029. Tax cuts and spending increases account for similar portions of the projected increase, though if the individual tax cuts in the 2017 Republican overhaul are extended beyond their current expiration date at the end of 2025, they would add another $1 trillion in debt through 2029.
Are interest rates destined to move higher, increasing the cost of private and public debt? While many experts believe that higher rates are all but inevitable, historian Paul Schmelzing argues that today’s low-interest environment is consistent with a long-term trend stretching back 600 years.
The chart “shows a clear historical downtrend, with rates falling about 1% every 60 years to near zero today,” says Bloomberg’s Aaron Brown. “Rates do tend to revert to a mean, but that mean seems to be declining.”
Lawmakers are considering three separate bills that are intended to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Here’s an overview of the proposals, from a series of charts produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week. An interesting detail highlighted in another chart: 88% of voters – including 92% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans – want to give the government the power to negotiate prices with drug companies.
From Gallup: “A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup's trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.”