Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jonah Goldberg Displays an Astounding Ignorance of Taxes and Withholding

A Level Low Intelligence Thought to Be Impossible Just a Few Years Ago

That the quality of education and level of basic knowledge is declining in the United States is evidenced every day by pronouncements of Conservatives, but ultra Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg has set a new standard in his discussion of the practice of income tax withholding.  Mr. Goldberg is against the practice, because it provides government with funding and gosh, he just hates funding government.

So we present some of the things that Mr. Goldberg says, at the risk of publicizing statements that are just plain false.

Withholding numbs workers to the pain of their taxes.

Really, when was the last time anyone, anyone ever denied the pain of taxes.  Listening to the public clamor on the subject shows that everyone is well aware of the tax burden and the pain of paying taxes.

A refund is when the government pays you back for the interest-free loan it forced you to make in the first place. Congratulations!

Uh, no.  No one is required to have withholding greater than their tax liability.  In fact you can have withholding/estimated payments slightly less than your tax liability and not suffer a penalty.  That is just a false statement.  And then there is this.

Withholding means we are, in effect, working for the government before we are working for ourselves.

Well first of all withholding does not mean anyone is working for the government before they are working for themselves.  It simply means that people are required to pay their taxes at the same time they earn the money that generates the tax liability.  Pay as you go sort to speak. 

Worse, since taxpayers are anesthetized to the pain of paying taxes, we’re becoming ever more disconnected from the product we are buying. There’s a reason Tax Day and Election Day are about as far apart as possible.

Ah, nothing like a nice conspiracy theory to end things, that somehow the Founding Fathers knew decades in advance that tax returns would be filed in April and so they set November as the election date.  Oh, what about all those primaries that take place right around April 15?  Those are just facts which contradict a point, and so don’t deserve to be mentioned.

And Mr. Goldberg is probably ignorant of the fact that millions of Americans take the automatic six month extension for filing a return that the IRS provides.  This means they file their returns around October 15, which gosh, is awfully close to the November election date.  Oops, another part of reality that contradicts a good right wing rant.

The case for withholding is simple.  Government is partly funded by tax revenues and will always be partly funded by tax revenues.  Withholding is simply a very efficient way for citizens to pay their taxes on time.  Really, that’s all it is, Conservative hysteria is the real con game here.


  1. Wonderful examples of right-wing subjectivism from Goldberg. It boggles the mind how regular paycheck withholdings could make employees LESS aware of taxation. I get to see how much of my salary is going to federal taxes, state taxes, local taxes (when I lived in NYC), Social Security, and Medicare every two weeks.

    I guess Goldberg is using "anesthetized" to mean that taxpayers do not MIND paying taxes because withholding inures them to doing it. And that plays on the ridiculous Conservative theme that taxes are inherently evil and everyone should hate that they have to pay them.

    Goldberg sort of has a point about refunds, in that there's a common misconception that a large refund is a good thing. But that misconception has nothing to do with the point of his article. No one intentionally overpays his taxes in the hope of receiving a bigger refund.

    Maybe there's a real story to be told about refunds being unnecessarily high because it is too difficult to figure out the correct amount of withholding, so taxpayers end up withholding too much. It would require facts and research to write that story, so Goldberg need not apply.

  2. As a tax practicioner I can say that Rich is exactly on point. People do regard getting a refund as a good thing, and that a tax preparer that generates a refund has done a good job.

    The result is that tax professionals regular compute estimated and withholding amounts high, so that they can generate the refund and good will of the client.

    Western New York, hug. The DPE is an emigrant from Buffalo.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me why the insane ideological extremist in our culture are every given a second of access to our public discourse. It's why I can't watch anything on tv related to propaganda, I mean politics. Do we have to wait for the current crop of talking heads to die before the media will speak to someone else without a known talking point job?
    Your friend in BR, LA