Some paths to success on this platform are depressing. I wanted to entice people into watching a twenty minute meditation on the IRS, so I needed a conservative YouTuber to use as a foil. I’d heard of Steven Crowder for years, but never seen a need to watch one of his videos. It was honestly pretty appalling. A bunch of middle aged men yukking it up while bullying college students, pushing laughably bad propaganda about Israel and guns, and just generally lowering my estimation of politics, the internet, and media in general. Crowder apparently produces two hours of this every couple days, and gets half a million views every time. Grim. So I came up with the deepest insult I could imagine for Mr. Crowder, and built a video around it.
If you’d like to earn my undying gratitude, please click here to support this project through Patreon. Please do reach out to us through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or our e-mail newsletter.
Video Transcript after the jump…
So usually when I critique a YouTuber I do a lot of background research, but not this time. The truth is that I want to talk about the money that congress restored to the IRS last week, and why it’s such a great thing. But because I want people to watch this video, I figured I had to do it with YouTube drama, so I watched my first ever video by a guy named Steven Crowder. I have never heard a good thing said about Steven Crowder, but who knows, maybe that’s unfair. Let’s see!
“So, Uh, this includes 80 billion this new bill, in new funding for the IRS, to help inflation.
Yes, to help inflation, by the way, do you know what their budget is annually?
12.5 billion. They’re getting 80 billion dollars in this bill
That’s a lot of nuts!
Why don’t we just take that Ukraine money back
That’s like six or seven times their annual budget now, are you kidding me!
Yes, this is now going to be known as new IRS..”
Well that, that right there is bullshit. But it’s not crazy conservative BS. It’s mainstream media BS. That’s what a lot of this Crowder stuff is, it’s New York Times Opinion page nonsense served up with the transgressive veneer of a bunch of middle aged men picking on queer college students.
The Hillary Clinton standard propaganda they are engaging in here, is the old DC trick of reporting all money spent by the government in one year intervals to make it seem smaller if its for weapons, and in ten year intervals to seem bigger for absolutely everything else. No, the IRS is not getting an 80 billion dollar check. They are getting 8 billion dollars a year for ten years.
Now that may still seem like a big number. Why would the IRS need to go from 12 billion a year in funding to 20 billion a year in funding? Well what’s needed here is a little history lesson that Crowder and his cronies have no interest in providing. You see, twelve years ago,all the way back in 2010, the IRS had 14 billion dollars a year in funding. And 12 years later, they have less money to work with. Why don’t we compare that with Medicare, another government program. Well in 2010 Medicare spent 516 billion dollars. And in 2022, Medicare is expected to spend 829 billion. That Medicare number is higher than it should be, but it is natural for these numbers to go up. Inflation happens every year. The amount of money we spend on every agency, goes up every year. Except with the IRS. The tax police, the Internal Revenue Service, has been systematically defunded over the past decade. That was a huge problem, and a serious danger to our country, that the Democrats have just acted to fix. But before we get there, let’s talk a little bit about Steven Crowder’s philosophy. He was nice enough to lay it out in his IRS video, and it is very, very mainstream.
“But here’s the problem again with class warfare. I’ve known, some of the most generous people I’ve ever known are wealthy people. Some of the most selfish people I’ve known are poor people. I’ve also known some really generous middle class people.
I will tell you this, I’ve never known any really, really generous poor people, that’s just anecdotal. And I’ve known some really selfish rich people. But he says, ‘rich people cheating on their taxes’… if they are cheat on their taxes, and by the way, everyone technically cheats on their taxes, that’s why you have the IRS, and you just octupled their funding… what about poor people who cheat on their taxes? What about the baby momma situation? What about people who specifically underdeclar income, or don’t work, so that they can get more EBT card benefits, so that they can get more social safety net benefits? That’s a cheat!”
So Rich people are good, and poor people are bad. It’s rarely talked about this explicitly, and I guess we should be grateful to Crowder for his honesty. But it’s not a transgressive take. In fact it has been the guiding philosophy of government in the United States for 42 years now. It’s not just a Reaganite idea, its very much the Clinton ideology as well.
I’ll spare you another repeat of an old clip on this, but I’ve been talking about the declining Reagan era for two years now. In 1980, with the election of Ronald Reagan, the United States moved away from the old FDR New Deal idea that the government had to interfere in the economy to bring about economic justice. That system had broken down in the 1970s, and now it was time for big business to save us. Rich entrepreneurs would beat Communism at home and abroad, and make the United States the world leader in wealth and technology again. For the past 42 years, no politician Republican or Democratic has been able able to escape this ideology, and with good reason… for the first two decades or so, it worked marvelously. Clinton and Obama both governed according to these Reaganite principles. Actually, Clinton and Obama may have been better Reaganites than the Republican presidents. You see Ronald Reagan himself was often blocked in his reforms, both by the economic disasters that his reforms initially created, the Volcker Shock and the S&L crisis, and the fact that Reagan had to deal with an old school New Deal Democratic congress throughout his time in power. The best President for Steven Crowder’s Rich people good, poor people bad philosophy was actually Bill Clinton.
Let’s look at Clinton’s three biggest legacies. The first was welfare reform, the idea that those who were unfortunate enough to need government assistance had to be punished, and forced to work. Because poor people are bad. The next was the idea that the era of Big Government was over, and that private sector contractors should do progressively more and more of the work that used to be done by government bureaucrats. This led to the horrific over-spending of the war on terror, and worlwide mercenary armies, but back in the 1990s we didn’t know that. The third Clintonite legacy was massive, massive financial deregulation, most famously the repeal of Glass-Steagal, but made up of dozens of other deregulatory gifts to Wall Street. The idea was that rich people were fundamentally good, and that they should be allowed to do whatever they wanted. This led to catastrophe in 2008, but it created great economic success in the 1990s. If he were honest, Steven Crowder would have to admit that Bill Clinton is his favorite president. His second favorite would probably be Barack Obama.
Barack Obama’s biggest reform was the supposedly socialist Obamacare. If you look into the details though, it becomes clear that Obamacare was massively, obscenely good for business. The reform was initially cooked up at the Heritage foundation, a right wing think tank. It did include some good things, the end of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, and the end of insurance companies imposing maximums on coverage, which would cut off people experiencing traumatic health conditions after a certain dollar limit was reached. It did extend health coverage a little bit. But does anybody think that big pharma or the insurance industry lost a single penny of profit due to Obamacare? Of course not, Obamacare helped make US Healthcare one of the wealthiest and most profitable industries in human history. Obama’s second biggest legacy, well that was probably the systematic gutting of the US internal revenue service between 2010 and 2022.
The best chronicler of this destruction is probably ProPublica, that essential journalistic nonprofit. They have done amazing, invaluable work on this somewhat boring technical topic. But I disagree with the tone of some of their coverage. Beyond the brilliant technical detail, they play into the same myth that Steven Crowder loves to put forward, the myth that the Republicans and Democrats disagree on much that’s fundamental other than guns and abortion. Propublica loves to blame the Republicans for the destruction of the IRS, but let’s not forget that Obama was the president when this happened, and he signed all the relevant legislation. Democrats supported this disaster as well. In recent weeks we’ve gotten a strong reminder of how much Democrats love giving money to rich people. The Inflation Reduction Act, the legislation we are talking about here, initially included language that closed the Carried interest loophole. This loophole, that everybody from Donald Trump to AOC has condemned, exclusively benefits a few dozen of the richest people in the country. Who saved the loophole? Arizona democrat Kristen Sinema, that’s who. So let’s dispense with the idea that the Republicans are the only baddies here. Both parties encouraged the destruction of the IRS. It was completely in keeping with the guiding philosophy our time, that Steven Crowder so honestly lays out: Rich People Good, Poor People Bad.
Pro Publica lays out how massive the destruction was, with simple statistics. As IRS staffing has fallen, so has its ability to collect money. Annual revenue from Audits has fallen by 10 billion dollars since 2010. Every year, a certain amount of tax debts lapse, because the IRS fails to pursue them before the statute of limitations expires. In 2010 the annual figure was 482 million dollars. In 2017, after the budget cuts, that figure was 8.3 billion. And this is just the stuff that we know for sure that the IRS is no longer catching. To make this fall in funding even more cataclysmic, over the past decade the IRS has also been asked to take on at least two new regulatory burdens, the roll out of Obamacare, and the overhaul of the tax code due to Trump’s tax cuts. The IRS has been starved of the money necessary to do its main job, while being asked to do new jobs as well.
“everyone technically cheats on their taxes, that’s why you have the IRS,
everyone technically cheats on their taxes, that’s why you have the IRS,”
Well, before last week’s legislation, we didn’t really have an IRS anymore. In 2020 I had a tax issue, so I reached out to the IRS in writing. It took them 8 months to get back to me. And I wanted to comply with my tax obligations. What about the millions of people in the country who don’t want to file taxes at all?
everyone technically cheats on their taxes, that’s why you have the IRS,
Turns out Propublica has data on this as well. In 2011, the IRS went after 2.4 million people for not bothering to file a tax return. In 2017, they only had the money to go after 362,000 non filers.
And the worst aspect of all of this, is that going after the rich tax cheats is difficult, boutique stuff, requiring complex investigation and litigation. The IRS used to be very good at this, but they can’t afford it anymore, so now they primarily go after the poor and easily intimidated tax cheats.
“Well the problem is it’s usually only the people with the best accountants and the best lawyers that can take advantage of them. People like you and me, Gerald… dolts… we don’t.”
Crowder and his dolts are describing something that’s always true. Rich people always have more resources to fool the tax man, but what they are leaving out is that the past decade of IRS defunding has made things much, much worse. The appropriate response to rich people cheating is not to disarm the IRS, but that’s exactly what we have done over the past decade.
And It’s not just the IRS. Defunding the tax police is just one aspect of the situation we have created after 40 years of government under the mantra that rich people are good, and poor people are bad. We have constructed a country that is a paradise for the top 20% or so, but is becoming a dystopia for everybody else. Our dishwashers, phones and TV habits are cheaper and more useful now, but housing, healthcare and education all cost insanely more than they did 40 years ago. This isn’t a problem for the top 20% that has profited immensely from the Reagan era, but it’s a problem for everybody else.
All three of the past three US presidents have promised to change this situation, but until last week all three had largely failed. Most of what I have seen over the 14 years since the financial crisis is the rich getting richer, and getting better at using the system for the benefit of the rich. We are becoming a desperately unequal country, with falling social mobility, where people don’t even have to pay taxes anymore.
In 2009 the world watched on in horror as the economy and society of Greece fell apart. A culture of cheating on everything, and celebrating that cheating led to a disaster they still haven’t recovered from. I believe that Germany and the rest of Europe have been needlessly cruel in allowing Greece’s economic depression to continue this long, but when the Northerners ask why they should bail out a country where nobody pays their taxes, it’s a hard question to answer.
Now the United States is nowhere near Greece’s predicament, but we are heading in that direction. We still have incredible wealth, a trust based society, and strong institutions that go back centuries. But for 40 years now we have been sliding further and further away from trust, virtue and the rule of law. I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to stop sliding. Until last week, when Congress decided to restore the IRS.
Before I close I think I should say a bit more about Steven Crowder. The video I watched is filled with plenty of misrepresentations and outright lies, on subjects from Palestine to gun deaths, that I could talk about for hours. But that would be a waste of time. Instead let’s talk about something he got absolutely right.
“Uhh… so they say it will only affect the richest Americans. Here’s the truth [ding, ding] this bill is actually, and its worse than accidental, it’s designed to go after the middle class, it’s designed to go after you. Here’s why. You won’t get enough if you just tax the ultra-wealthy. And the mechanisms aren’t in place. It’s a constant arms race. They can hire better CPAs, they can hire lawyers. Even if they weren’t able to, you wouldn’t be able to get the kind of revenue that you need. So, it’s designed to come after the middle class, middle, upper, call it upper middle class as well, small business owners…”
This is true. When Biden or other Democrats tell you,or imply, that the only people who will now be forced to pay their taxes are billionaires, they are lying. Truly fixing this country will require sacrifices, not just from the top 1%, but from the top 20% as well. But as you can see from that clip, Steven Crowder’s definition of the middle class is kind of slippery.
“My CPA, the CPA, we have a third party CPA who works for us, OK. As soon as the tax cuts came into play from Donald Trump, he hired two new people. He ended up hiring four more people, throughout the term of Donald Trump. Now the revenue from this place, could be a few million dollars. That’s the gross revenue, OK the gross revenue. Let’s say it’s five million dollars. Ok, taxes, cut that down to three million dollars, OK, payroll, just payroll, two million dollars, now you have one million dollars left, before the owner of this business takes any kind of money himself. What are the expenses? He could end up with 250,000. Now that’s certainly good money, he should be grateful for it, but certainly not the top 1%?”
He’s talking about the owner of a business that employs at least a dozen people, and clears a quarter million dollars a year in pure profit after taxes. That’s Steven Crowder’s definition of the middle class. These are the small businesses that Steven Crowder and the Republicans want to be able to cheat on their taxes. When anti-tax forces say middle class or small business, they want you to think of your aunt’s small plumbing business, or your Uncle’s Etsy shop. What they really mean are the legions of consulting businesses, car dealerships, lawyers, accountants and other professionals who have used the past decade without IRS scrutiny to get out of paying any taxes at all. Keep Crowder’s example in mind whenever you hear the words small business in the future.
I believe it’s time to get away from the ideology that poor people are bad, and rich people are fundamentally good. Pundits like Crowder pretend that this country’s politics are deeply divided, but one hour of his content makes it pretty clear that our policy elites, and our successful media figures, like Steven Crowder, are pretty united in following this central ideology. Some of the most generous people that Crowder knows are rich people. Hillary Clinton probably felt the same way when she was cashing all those checks from the world’s biggest banks. Steven Crowder may claim to hate Hillary Clinton, but on all the ideological issues that really matter, Steven Crowder is Hillary Clinton.
Giving another 8 billion dollars a year to the IRS isn’t going to solve everything. But it’s a sign. It’s a sign that the United States is capable of correcting just one of the many injustices we need to correct to get back on the path to prosperity. Being a country where people have to pay the taxes they owe is a pretty low bar, but last week the United States decided to meet that standard, for the first time in a decade. And I for one am pretty happy about it.
Thanks for watching, please like, subscribe, and let me know what you think in the comments. Don’t forget to click the bell next to the subscribe button if you want to get notifications whenever I upload a video. Thanks.