Sunday, August 23, 2015
How Do You Worsen Government, Inequality, Privacy, Security? Keep Gutting the IRS
12:00 pm edt
The scandal over an IRS security breach, however troubling, is just a hint of the problems facing the IRS after 17 years of budget cuts (in real terms, 2015 funding of the agency is at its lowest since 1998). During that period, the number of returns filed annually has increased by 30 million, now reviewed by fewer, more overwhelmed staff.
a New York Times editorial noted a year ago, lagging funding, technology, and staff capacity don’t just threaten the responsiveness of IRS
to taxpayer inquiries, or jeopardize its management of private information. The systematic, intentional weakening
of the IRS by Congress costs us money and rewards tax cheats, who see minimal risk given the rarity of an audit. Tax
evasion is in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Enforcing our tax laws should not be a partisan or controversial issue, as taxpayer advocate Nina Olson symbolizes. Rather, it should be a matter of fairness and good government. According to the Treasury,
every dollar invested in IRS enforcement yields some six dollars in revenue.
The IRS is not our enemy; it is a legitimate instrument of our government. Let’s fund
it adequately – on the order of $12-$13 billion annually (versus less than $11 billion currently), if not more –
and help this agency do its job on behalf of all Americans.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Supporting the JCPA/Iran Deal
8:33 am edt
Appreciating U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy’s nuanced
statement on behalf of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) with Iran, as a Connecticut constituent I wrote Senator
Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro separately August 17 to urge them in this direction, as well. My
“Despite its limitations, I support
the Iran deal and hope that you will, too. Its endorsement by many accomplished former U.S. diplomats and other public
servants (e.g., former Defense Secretary Harold Brown in a Washington Post piece reprinted by the New Haven Register) persuade
me that the dangers of rejecting the deal exceed the risk of giving it a chance.”
While Senator Blumenthal has not yet reached a decision, Representative DeLauro has now announced her support for the Iran deal.
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Donating Blood, Every Eight Weeks
8:47 am edt
Today I plan to give blood, which one can do every eight weeks.
An April 2015 post, among others, discussed blood donors and donations.
Saturday, August 8, 2015
Hindu Nationalism in India
12:57 pm edt
mother-in-law recently sent me an informative “situation report” about the threat of Hindu nationalism in India, by Zoya Hasan, a National Fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research.
After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by a Hindu extremist, Hasan writes, “The post-independence concept of
India as a nation was originally based on civic rather than ethnic identity. Independent India's founders resolved to build
a democracy that would not be engulfed by competing identities – religious, ethnic, caste or linguistic–and indeed
much of its progress in its first 50 years was closely tied to its preservation of pluralism and cultural breadth.”
to Zoya Hasan, “Despite the fact that Muslims face discrimination and almost all indicators of social development place
Muslims below the national average, India has so far been fortunate in avoiding Muslim estrangement from the polity….
Yet, moderation today is not a guarantee that extremism will not arise tomorrow in India. The rise of Hindu nationalism and
the overall marginalisation of Muslims could provide opportunities for radical groups within the Muslim community to mobilise.”
continues, “While analysts consider whether the Modi government can deliver on its progressive promises of development,
governance, and, above all, job creation, many fear that the energies of the new government are being diverted in old, divisive
issues. There have been a number of alarming developments under the Modi government –reconversions campaigns, denunciation
of interreligious marriages as 'love jihad,' and church attacks. The basic issue underlying these controversies is the concerted
campaign by groups close to the governing party to redefine the state as Hindu, and Indian citizenship as based on religion
and culture, not civic equality that respects diversity and pluralism. Strongly aligned to Hindu sensibilities, there has
been a concerted effort by certain groups to create a predominantly Hindutva public sphere that marginalises others.”
Still, she concludes, “Growing opposition to the Hindutva social agenda from civil society organisations, NGOs, and the general public
indicates the resilience of pluralism in India's democracy. Despite the shift to the right, the centrist tendency remains
... [and] a strong opposition will be important in challenging a political culture that emboldens Hindu nationalism.”
Saturday, July 18, 2015
“India's Daughter” and Women's Rights around the World
7:54 am edt
My parents-in-law, visiting from New Delhi, recently joined me in attending a public library screening of the sobering documentary “India's Daughter.” The movie is banned there because of its controversial
depiction of the brutal rape and killing of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012 – an event that led to mass protests
and some reforms.
In many countries beyond
India, the film can be viewed online. It depicts several Indian perspectives on what are, alas, global problems of gender and socioeconomic inequality and
Tanvi Misra reflected on the
film earlier this year in the Atlantic. Like her, my wife is from New Delhi, to which we last traveled together in 2014.