The more complicated an issue is, the more you can figure things out by asking who is for or against it.
Taxes are one of the most complicated things in government, and so it is the perfect place to apply this approach. Neil Irwin at Wonkblog recently wrote up a perfect example: Why is it that most folks can’t get their taxes done automatically?
The IRS knows your wage income, your interest/dividend income, your likely number of dependents, and so on. It could give you a web page with your tax form that had these numbers filled in, let you modify and add what you needed to, and then submit it, along with payment. Honestly, any competent web company could throw that together after their Friday beer party. And for most people, filing their Federal taxes would become more an annoyance than an agony.
Why don’t they do this?
Because they aren’t allowed to. Congress won’t authorize it. The legislation has always been sucked down into the lobbyist Vortex of Nada.
Who would be against that? Well, the list has some obvious members. Intuit and other tax software people clearly would oppose it. As would H&R Block and other accountants.
But what isn’t so obvious is that the anti-tax right wing is part of the opposition as well.
It’s fascinating what you can learn about by this kind of “Who supports it?” indirection. The anti-tax people don’t want it to be easy to pay your taxes. One reason is that if it is easy, you might not care as much about paying it. Which is kind of weird actually. If your taxes are too high, paying it easily doesn’t make them any less high.
What they want is for you to despise paying taxes. The more you hate it, the more support they have against taxes. Agony and angst translate into opposition. Even if you only paid a penny in taxes, making you suffer over it for hours, worry about it all year, and possibly even pay someone to calculate that you owed only a penny — that would make you think taxes were bad.
Even if that could be fixed by a some half-drunk 20-somethings in Silicon Valley in an afternoon.