In April 2014 former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent the following letter to the IRS.
This note is to alert you folks that I know that I do not know whether or not my tax returns are accurate, which is a sad commentary on governance in our nation’s capital. I do hope that at some point in my lifetime, and I am now in my 80s, so there are not many years left, the U.S. government will simplify the U.S. tax code so that those citizens who sincerely want to pay what they should, are able to do it right, and know that they have done it right.
Ever wondered why the tax code is so complex? Ever wondered why legislation often runs into hundreds if not thousands of pages? The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) ran to 2,400 pages. Since then regulations totalling tens of thousands of pages have been issued. Nor is Obamacare exceptional. The same is true of almost any piece of legislation.
Why make it so hard?
The short answer is “special interest lobbying”. An obscure paragraph inserted here, a slight change of wording there, a special exception factored in elsewhere can be worth billions to various special interest groups.
The longer answer is that laws and regulations are complex by design. It is part of the Great Bamboozle. If laws are complex enough they leave room for scams.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Some things are inherently complex. As Einstein allegedly put it, “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
The opposite is also true. I’ll call it Izcaro’s law of complexity:
Everything should be a complex as needed, but not more so.
By any standard our laws and regulations are orders of magnitude more complex that they need be to the great advantage of certain special interest groups.
But also to the benefit of the Conspirators who are able to hide behind complexity.
As we shall see the Great Recession was made possible in part by changes to various very complex and obscure rules and regulations.
It is a perfect example of the use of complexity as a weapon.
Of course Rumsfeld was being somewhat disingenuous. He is one of those people who benefits from the complexity of the tax code. I’m guessing the very last thing he would want is a simple tax code free of vaguely worded loopholes.
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