Paul Krugman today has an interesting take on yesterday's news that the I.R.S will be outsourcing the collection of back taxes to private debt collection agencies today.
"It's an awful idea. Privatizing tax collection will cost far more
than hiring additional I.R.S. agents, raise less revenue and pose
obvious risks of abuse. But what's really amazing is the extent to
which this plan is a retreat from modern principles of government. I
used to say that conservatives want to take us back to the 1920's, but
the Bush administration seemingly wants to go back to the 16th century.
And privatized tax collection is only part of the great march backward."
Creating a profit incentive for debt agencies to go after taxpayers is just another step - in concert with wiretapping, for example - in institutionalizing the corporate-government war on the individual. And in handing over "public good" duties to corporations, to whom the very concept of public good runs counter to the profit motive at the center of their identity. Of course the biggest tax cheats in America are corporations and millionaires with abusive tax shelters and the means to exploit every loophole available to them. Will the collection agencies turn on their fellow corporations?
Krugman notes what CorpWatch has been tracking for years: that we are already outsourcing the dirty bits of war to private security contractors (or "mercenaries"), seriously considering privatizing Social Security, handing contracts out for public infrastructure and utilities, and otherwise privatizing some of the most basic responsibilities of government.
But the potential for abuse is staggering. Imagine the collection agencies that win these contracts - certainly, in keeping with the pattern established in federal contracting in Iraq, Afghanistan and the American Gulf Coast. They will be overwhelmingly those that have been profligate in their financial support of the campaigns that won their new bosses office in Washington. So is it much of a stretch to imagine that those same agencies might single out of aggressive collection those individuals and organizations who criticize and challenge the same administration?