RICHMOND — In an ordinary American household, people have wants.
Wants cost money. Decisions must be made about which wants can be satisfied today, which next year, which never.
It all depends on what money is available and whether the family wants to borrow or not. And it never works well if any member plunges ahead and buys something without telling anyone.
In the nation’s capital, it doesn’t work that way. Right now, the Armed Services Committee wants to increase military spending by $24 billion for more weapons, more research, more construction. At the same time, Congress is arguing about the size of bills that will build roads, assist with child care, expand broadband systems and finance desperately needed measures to save us from extinction, etc.
Since President Biden’s idea was to level fund military spending in the new budget and we are finally not conducting a war, it’s hard to understand why anyone would recommend increases in military spending.
But Politico reports that 14 Democrats who personally served or are from districts associated with the military joined the Republican push for the increase.
Our spending for war dwarfs that of every other nation in the world. We’re talking overwhelms every other. We’re spending $778 billion annually to China’s 252, India’s 72 and Russia’s 61. Who are we afraid of? And why does the budget increase include keeping three Navy cruisers in service when the Navy planned to retire them?
More importantly, how much closer might we get to world peace if we thought about putting more money into global vaccinations against this virus that is killing us and cannot be defeated with guns, aircraft, cruisers or troops?
Defense spending by most ordinary measures is way out of control, and it seems odd that one arm of Congress can think $24 billion more is fine while another bunch thinks we can’t afford a war on climate change. Climate is far more threatening to us than China, Russia or terrorists from the Middle East.
But there’s one more oddity. These very same folks in charge of spending have cut the Internal Revenue Service’s budget. It seems sensible to put a chunk of that warship money into fixing the IRS, enhancing its ability to do audits, collect cash and unearth the thousands of American tax cheats, be they businesses or individuals.
The fellow who recently lived in the White House ran as a businessman who would straighten things out, but he didn’t try to collect the bills.
None of us wants to be audited. An IRS notice about a tax problem causes the same apprehension as seeing flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror when the speedometer is at 80.
But it’s poor management to have audits drop 46 percent between 2010 and 2018. It’s horrifying that $574 billion in taxes were unpaid in 2019.
Pull that amount in, and you’re getting more than a few new bridges. And IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig this year said we’re probably losing a trillion dollars a year.
Being clever about taxes seems to be part of the American DNA. The New York Times reports that seven million children disappeared from tax returns the year after legislation required that every listed dependent have a Social Security number.
In the meantime, 95 percent of the nation’s wage earners pay their share because it’s deducted from their paychecks. And taxes are deducted directly from those who take required payments from IRA’s or win the lottery. Rettig has made several suggestions for getting taxes, now unpaid, from rents, royalties and other business income.
When it comes to revitalizing and possibly renovating the IRS, the New York Times in March put it this way: “The logic of such an investment is overwhelming. The government can crack down on crime, improve the equity of taxation — and raise some needed money in the bargain.
There are many proposals to raise taxes on the rich. Let’s start by collecting what they already owe.
And thus, in addition to not increasing military spending and raising corporate taxes, plus chucking the former president’s gifts to the wealthy, we could answer many of the nation’s needs — and wants — without breaking the bank.