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):
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times:
- IRS Struggles to Help Victims of Identity Fraud
- The Battle Is On to Save Military Bases from Closure
- Six Fascinating Facts About the Future of Religion
The partial government shutdown has hit the economy like a hurricane – and not just metaphorically. Analysts at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said Tuesday that the shutdown has now cost the economy about $26 billion, close to the average cost of $27 billion per hurricane calculated by the Congressional Budget Office for storms striking the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. From an economic point of view, it’s basically “a self-imposed natural disaster,” CRFB said.
The U.S. could save billions of dollars a year if Medicare were empowered to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, according to a paper published by JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this week. Researchers compared the prices of the top 50 oral drugs in Medicare Part D to the prices for the same drugs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates its own prices and uses a national formulary. They found that Medicare’s total spending was much higher than it would have been with VA pricing.
In 2016, for example, Medicare Part D spent $32.5 billion on the top 50 drugs but would have spent $18 billion if VA prices were in effect – or roughly 45 percent less. And the savings would likely be larger still, Axios’s Bob Herman said, since the study did not consider high-cost injectable drugs such as insulin.
It may be small beer compared to the problems faced by unemployed federal workers and the growing cost for the overall economy, but the ongoing government shutdown is putting a serious crimp in the craft brewing industry. Small-batch brewers tend to produce new products on a regular basis, The Wall Street Journal’s Ruth Simon says, but each new formulation and product label needs to be approved by the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is currently closed. So it looks like you’ll have to wait a while to try the new version of Hemperor HPA from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, a hoppy brew that will include hemp seeds once the shutdown is over.
The amount spent on medical marketing reached $30 billion in 2016, up from $18 billion in 1997, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and highlighted by the Associated Press. The number of advertisements for prescription drugs appearing on television, newspapers, websites and elsewhere totaled 5 million in one year, accounting for $6 billion in marketing spending. Direct-to-consumer marketing grew the fastest, rising from $2 billion, or 12 percent of total marketing, to nearly $10 billion, or a third of spending. “Marketing drives more treatments, more testing” that patients don’t always need, Dr. Steven Woloshin, a Dartmouth College health policy expert and co-author of the study, told the AP.