Alleged Washington Post Fact Checker Attempts to Fact Check IRS Snooping Proposal

Alleged Washington Post Fact Checker Attempts to Fact Check IRS Snooping Proposal
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As I’ve written a hundred times before at this point: once again, the fact checkers are not sending their best.

They always come out to defend the most indefensible of the Biden administration’s policies. The ratio at which they fact check claims made by the Biden administration vs others, and the differences in the severity of claims they choose to check fact, just goes to prove that.

In this case, Washington Post reporter Salvador Rizzo attempted to distort the facts on the IRS’ bank account tracking proposal. His “fact check” is in response to the specific comment from Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, who stated “I don’t think there’s any Republican who doesn’t think the IRS should be able to identify tax evaders and taxes that are being evaded. The question is, do you need to create a mechanism where the people of America have to give up their privacy on all of their financial transactions in order to do so? There’s got to be some ground in the middle.” He also included a quote from Louisiana Senator John Kennedy stating that it doesn’t matter if the threshold for tracking kicks in at $600 or $10,000 (it has been revised upward to the latter).

But as Rizzo says “Republicans said the plan would scoop up all of Americans’ ‘intimate financial details’ and hand them over to ‘spies’ working for the IRS. Nope. The Democrats’ proposal was never that intrusive and now is much more limited. No intimate details about any transactions would be reported.”

The main part of his rebuttal includes quoting a Treasury “fact sheet,” and then just assuming that the government will behave as they claim they will despite the new powers afforded to them.

The Treasury posted a fact sheet on Tuesday before the Senate Republicans’ news conference, noting that the proposed reporting requirements would help pinpoint unusual circumstances, such as “a taxpayer who reports $10,000 of income, but has $10 million of flows in and out of their bank account.”

Of course, no statistics were provided on exactly how many people are in the “$10k in income, $10 million in flows” boat. If this sort of scenario was common, surely we’d have the statistics quoted to us?

And to point out the obvious: if we’re talking about a bank account with $10 million in cash flowing through it, why is the threshold for flagging accounts being set as low as $10,000 in flows after being initially as low as $600? Nothing is adding up there.

The “fact sheet” continues:

“To be clear: The financial reporting proposal does not include reporting on individual transactions of any amount. Instead, banks would add two additional data points to the information that is already supplied to the IRS: how much money went into the account over the course of the year, and how much came out.”

Such a claim that this proposal won’t allow the IRS to track individual transactions may be believable to someone who believes that the NSA hasn’t engaged in warrantless wiretapping, that the FISA process hasn’t been abused for political purposes, or that the Patriot Act hasn’t been invoked countless times to aid in investigating things not related at all to terrorism. It is essentially the rule, not the exemption, that the government will use any new authority granted to them to its greatest possible extent, not its stated intent.

Even granting Rizzo’s premise, his argument is effectively just him giving us his opinion that the IRS knowing exactly the amount of money entering and exiting our bank accounts doesn’t count as them knowing our personal information. And what does Rizzo think will happen to the bank accounts that the IRS does flag? In what world where their individual transactions then not be then scrutinized?

Of course, this is all speculation, as we don’t actually know what the final version of this rule that will be implemented is yes. In other words, Rizzo realizes how bad this policy looks, and is trying to preemptively provide cover for it before we even know what the final version is that could become law. The first version of the proposal did indeed require a “breakdown for physical cash, transactions with a foreign accounts, and transformers to and from another account with the same owner.”

Oddly, few of the discussion over the IRS tracking bank accounts have pointed out that laws already exist on the books to prevent money laundering and tax evasion, as all cash transactions over $10,000 are reported thanks to the Bank Secrecy Act. Banks also already can detect attempts at avoiding this process by structing (people depositing $10k+ cash over multiple days in an attempt to fly under the radar), and that process itself is illegal. Banks must also report all wire transactions above $10k.

If the government wants to go over tax cheats (as they should), they already have the tools at their disposal.

Or, for a more concise rebuttal:

Meanwhile, the Washington Post is telling us to lower our expectations under the Biden administration. I’ll continue lowering my expectations of their fact checkers.

Matt Palumbo is the author of The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros


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