Homer Simpson goes to Washington

Many long-time members of Congress have this in common with Homer, the head of America’s most dysfunctional TV cartoon family, The Simpsons.

Short memories. As in they never learn.

Homer, if you know the show, is always doing something really stupid. He hits his head, grunts, then does it again. Often times on a more massive, dangerous scale. Unfortunately, he works in a nuclear power plant. Fortunately for folks near the plant, mostly what he does is nothing. Because when he does something, almost anything other than sleep, he screws up. The Simpsons are funny because they are on TV and you can turn them off when you’ve had enough. With Congress, not so much.

When not on vacation (which is a lot of the time, fortunately for the republic), Congress can be hazardous to our health.

Thanks to gerrymandering (both by Democrats and Republicans) many congressional districts have been redrawn to guarantee that the incumbent and party in power keep getting reelected. Maryland, which surrounds D.C. on three sides, is one of the best, as in worst, examples, although they abound in many other states.

Take tax collectors!


Many Americans don’t like (or think they don’t like, until they do) the government. And many loath the Internal Revenue Service in part because it must enforce some of the most complex, stupid tax laws of any country. Laws and loopholes that were inserted by various senators and representatives which make our tax code so complicated that a recent Secretary of the Treasury (and Wall Street whiz person) did his own return and got it terribly wrong.

Over the years, Congress has cut funding for the IRS, which, as most of you know, is one of only a couple money-making operations in the U.S. government. Sometimes the IRS leadership is “punished” for political (real or perceived) actions or coverups. But the losers each time the IRS takes a hit are its workers and taxpayers. The majority of people who grumble but pay their fair share year-after-year.

When the pile of uncollected taxes gets too big (mostly because the IRS is understaffed, underfunded and operating at times with museum-vintage equipment) Congress — mostly Republicans in the House — have a Homer Simpson moment. They turn to private debt collectors. Junkyard dogs, they are sometimes called, who get all the info about real and alleged deadbeats from the IRS. Then the collectors, who are less squeamish about tactics and late-night calls, are unleashed. This has happened at least twice before. In both cases, the outsiders got so tough and were so ruthless that honest-to-gosh taxpayers complained. Congress held hearings. Horror stories were told. The practice was banned. Until the next time.

So another next time is here. Congress has been talking about returning to private debt collectors and now the IRS, which resisted it in the past, has signed on.  And remember those public service ads and news items about tax scammers? People who call you at home or the office and say they are with the IRS? Remember the calls you aren’t supposed to take, because they are not legit? Well, soon apparently, you will be getting calls from people “representing” the IRS. But not sworn government employees. They’ll have all your vitals (including Social Security numbers?). So you better take the call. Just hope it’s from a legitimate source, not a scammer in Ukraine. Or Canada.

How long this third attempt at privatization of collections will last is anybody’s guess. What is sure, if past is prologue, is that it will cause problems, and a taxpayer revolt and eventually Congress will ban what it ordered. Again.

Good night Homer. Good night Marge. See you Bart and Lisa and Maggie. Keep Daddy away from that hammer and nail gun. Remember the last time …

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

Wiggum is the maiden name of Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening’s mother.

Source: TheFW