WTF is wrong with US society? Do we just accept total corruption?

We seem to be accepting that “No man is above the law” has no meaning. A Democratic AG seems reluctant to prosecute a blatant criminal ex-President, and you know any GOP AG wouldn’t think of prosecuting him. A SC justice has the most blatant of conflict-of-interests and declines to recuse himself.

Is this because, deep down, we just don’t buy into “no man is above the law”? Because we secretly think “The wealthy and powerful control this country, always have, always will, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that”?

I’ve always wondered why the IRS doesn’t make its primary goal to go after rich tax cheats–I understand that it’s much easier to go after less-rich folks like you and me who make the occasional error (and the less-occasional attempt at fraud) on our piddling incomes, and there are much more of us than mega-rich guys, so maybe that makes more financial sense as a policy–but by letting the wealthy skate (and by designing the tax laws so there are a few loopholes that exempt them from paying taxes in the first place), the IRS (and Congress) is undermining the concept of equality, without which all the other ideals just collapse.

This is not a society worth defending. Maybe it never was, and it has just taken me all these years to get wise to a hopelessly corrupt system. We suck.

There is a lot of deeply embedded corruption that you would expect to see in any corporacapitalist state. Corporations obviously act in their own vested self-interest and ‘buying’ politicians through ‘dark money’ contributions and with corporate-funded superPACs perpetuates this, so a significant part of the problem is the just-barely-regulated private financing of political campaigns, and although campaign finance reform is not the silver bullet that many people believe that it is, it would at least make it more difficult to do this sort of thing in plain sight.

That “the IRS doesn’t make its primary goal to go after rich tax cheats” is not really true; although the Criminal Investigation Unit has become significantly underfunded in recent years the IRS does most certainly pursue and prosecute illegal fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. The problem is that the tax code allows for instruments in which extremely wealthy people can shield their wealth by transferring it to protected trust and paying themselves in interest-deductable loans, essentially giving them full access to their wealth while not actually owning any significant assets or receiving income in the taxable sense, hence why Elon Musk rents a $50k prefab house in Boca Chica (actually owned by SpaceX) but lives in large mansions near Austin and Los Angeles that are held by shell companies. Although much is made of offshore money laundering in the Carribean, the United States is actually hosts some of the world’;s largest money laundering operations in South Dakota. See The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay.

The political corruption from pseudo-ideological conflict is something else entirely and stems from a tradition of a pandering to fear and a tendency to fascism, complete with symbology and ‘dog whistling’, vilifying the poor and scapegoating minorities through seemingly counterproductive initiatives like “The War on Drugs”, bashing grass-roots labor organizing and co-oping national labor organizations, the unwarranted jingoism and worship of nationalism in the guise of performative flag-waving “patriotism”, and a general trend toward regressive belief in a nostalgic soft focus view of the past. The current anti-science and incoherent anti-vaccine stances of predominately conservative (although some ‘radical’ pseudo-progressives as well) is not uniquely American but among developed nations the US has certainly elevated it to a shelf along side its public celebration of fundamentalist Christian fervor that politicians from most areas have to at least pretend to respect if not heartily endorse.

Not prosecuting a former president is mostly just about avoiding the precedent and inflaming his mass of adoring fans, and frankly is probably a smart move politically because it would only serve to give him free press while flunkies continue to take the fall for him but it is sour grapes for anyone who recognizes the unbridled corruption and damage that he did. Such a prosecution would take years through appeals and only give apparent justification to claims of being the target of a “witch hunt” (the irony of that term being appropriated by a wealthy white man of born of great privilege and receiving every possible benefit and bailout despite failing forward at every juncture is completely lost upon him and his supporters, of course); and truth be told there are a number of ex-Presidents and high officials who, if one dug into their backgrounds and business dealings should also be under indictment, but of course that doesn’t happen because we are a civilized nation that pardons such people and not an unstable ‘banana republic’ created by foreign intervention to destabilize the government to make its leadership amenable to business interests; we’ve done that to ourselves without needing any assistance.


Unfortunately I agree with much of what you said and it depresses me. I think we’re pretty much fucked. I don’t see any signs that we’re going to turn things around. I’m down to hoping that at 56 yrs old, society can hang on long enough that I’m not scrounging for food and shelter in the last years of my life.

Thank you for that detailed reply to my rant.

The IRS’s mission, seems to me, is ass-backwards. Rather than terrorizing the little guy, as it does quite efficiently, the US government is quite capable of telling the mega-rich, “OK, you’ve made a lot of $$$, and you’re welcome to keep most of it, as long as you comply with our very strict tax laws. It may hurt a little, but you’re getting to keep more money than one person can use in a lifetime, and you’re staying out of jail. If you step out of line, even a little bit, though, we’re going to haul your ass out of your mansion and your nice comfy bed and give you three hots and a cot for, oh, say, fifteen years.” Do this to a few fat cats, and spot-audit the rest of us, and you’ll terrorize the people most in need of being terrorized, and collect a pretty neat return on your efforts.

Why this isn’t the explicit policy of the IRS puzzles me no end.

It’s absolutely true that the wealthy and powerful can be above the law. Here is an example just from today:

There are folks fighting back against this, as seen in the above article:

Some members of Congress want to rewrite the bankruptcy code to limit maneuvers like this.

“We need to close this loophole for good,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said earlier this month. “Bankruptcy is supposed to be a good-faith way to accept responsibility, pay one’s debts as best you can, and then receive a second chance, not a Texas two-step, get-out-of-jail-free card for some of the wealthiest corporations on Earth like Johnson & Johnson.”

You do not have to be above the law if you can write the law to make your tax shelters, bankruptcies, etc. perfectly legal.

This. Many of the rich people they should be going after can either run for office or buy through lobbying those office-holders.

The problem isn’t really the IRS priorities; as Stranger says, it’s that our tax laws aren’t actually “very strict” and allow rich people plenty of leeway to avoid taxes either legally or in illegal-but-nearly impossible-to-prove-ways.

Well, yes, this is a part of the problem–lax tax laws, weak enforcement, and a general pro-business stance that makes US society unusually protective of the rich retaining their ill-gotten riches. It all adds up to what I’m calling an inherently corrupt society. You might even say “a kleptocracy.”

You seem to be focused primarily on federal taxation in your definition of corruption.

There are those who would argue that we were NOT put on this earth to give our money to the federal government, as a first principle. And others would argue that the tax codes allow a whole host of oddities, which are perfectly legal.

So, it seems that one must guard against falling into the lazy thinking trap of automatically equating RICH = CORRUPT because TAXES!!

Because the schemes that billionaires use to shield their wealth are completely legal. The IRS can’t prosecute people who are sheltering their assets and income through legal means.


Maybe. Not sure about “completely.”

In any case, this is the smallest part of my complaint–the larger part does concern the way the tax laws are drafted.

And of course by whom. The way we let the rich decide how the tax laws get written is hopelessly corrupt.

No, I’m very industrious. The corruption of the tax laws is only one example of the many, many ways the US system is rigged against the poor, by which I mean “non-billionaires.”

Sufficient that IRS audits of wealthy people often result in rebates rather that collections. And there is no way to collect income tax from someone who legitimately reports no income. If you have an ‘arrangement’ with the trust you set up to own all of your expensive property and lease you planes and yachts at some notional rate while the trust bears all expenses against its operating costs, there is simply nothing to tax and no evidence of fraud. That the US tax code is so forgiving to corporations (ostensibly a 21% ‘flat’ tax on revenue but with so many loopholes many corporations pay effectively no taxes or even receive millions of dollars in rebates) is by far a larger contributor of the problem and one which there is essentially zero expectation that there will be political momentum to address.

Okay, and your proposed solution is…?

A lot of self-styled progressives suggest that we should “eat the rich”, and although most of them are not speaking literally (although I suspect there may be a few actual cannibals in the bunch) it is difficult to see how Congresspeople, most of whom are in some way beholden to wealthy corporate interests and dynastic benefactors, are going to decide to vote against their own self-interests. We could get all money about of campaign finance and it still wouldn’t matter; corporations hold an enormous amount of power and influence over elected officials by dint of providing jobs and spending in key districts and they aren’t just suddenly going to flounce and give up.


The “ill-gotten” characterization is problematic. The system should be targeting all the riches, not just the ones that the oligarchs can’t manage to spin into “not ill-gotten.”

And the laws that enable them to do this are enacted by the very people who the billionaires pay to create these very laws. A nice tidy scheme.

With the help of, shall we call them rubes, that have been convinced that taxes on the wealthy are bad because one day they too will be the wealthy.

(See: Joe the Plumber)

Yep, and while there are still some moving pieces, the Sackler family has to this point been allowed to buy their way out of any real consequences for committing mass murder with all of their fraudulent marketing of Oxy.

Some great articles on this:

If someone is rich and they use unethical methods to avoid paying their taxes, then yes they are corrupt.

Or as Trump would say, “They’re smart.”

The articles support my point about the IRS–I conceded that it may well be true that prosecuting the wealthy for tax fraud may be less lucrative and more difficult than going after the little guy. My counter-argument is: So what? In a society based on equity, which this one is not, putting the wealthy and powerful behind bars when they break the law sets a powerful example for everyone to want to obey the law. The wealthy and powerful have so much to lose by going to jail that you want to give them incentives to obey the law. If they go to jail, it will be seen as a tragic fall, and everyone will take note. But if some poor schnook who failed to declare his full income of $30.000 goes to prison, who even knows about it?

IMO the IRS’s issues with going after the super-rich are more due to underfunding and lack of political will than just being about how clever the super-rich and their entourage of lawyers and accountants are.

It goes back to your original thesis that American society and the American political system accepts corruption and doesn’t see it as against our values.