SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Tax filing deadline was on Monday, a month later than usual because of the pandemic. The Treasury Department says most ordinary wage-earners pay all their taxes that they owe, but people who make money in other ways are less likely to pay, and as a result, hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes don't get collected every year. The Biden administration hopes to narrow the so-called tax gap between what people owe and what they actually pay and, in so doing, help defray the cost of the administration's ambitious agenda. NPR's chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley joins us now. Scott, thanks very much for being with us.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning.
SIMON: And what exactly is the administration proposing?
HORSLEY: The administration wants Congress to invest $80 billion in the IRS over the next decade. Some of that money would go to modernize computer systems that date from the 1960s. Some would also double the size of the IRS workforce, which has been seriously eroded over the last decade, and that erosion really shows. Back in 2010, people who made more than $10 million had about a 1 in 5 chance of getting audited. But by 2018, those odds had dropped to about 1 in 15. And, Scott, just as people are more likely to speed when there are no cops on the highway, that drop in IRS enforcement has made it more tempting for people to pay less than they owe in taxes.
SIMON: Tempting, tempting. Who would be affected if tax enforcement was strengthened?
HORSLEY: The administration says the additional resources would be directed at upper-income taxpayers, not ordinary wage-earners, and here's why. When I get my paycheck from NPR, the IRS knows exactly how much money I make because my employer reports it. So it would be pretty hard for me or any other wage-earner to cheat on my taxes. But let's say I own a rental property or some other investment that generates income in a less transparent way. That's where the real temptation to avoid taxes comes in because the IRS has a much more difficult time tracking that income. So in addition to hiring more auditors, the administration also wants to impose new reporting requirements on banks and other financial institutions to make it harder for people to hide their income and avoid the taxes that they owe.
SIMON: Do they project how much money this plan could generate?
HORSLEY: The Treasury Department estimated this week that with beefed up enforcement, the IRS could collect an additional $700 billion over the next decade. That would be a return of nearly $9 for every additional dollar the White House wants to spend on the IRS. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, who is a Trump appointee, did not exactly endorse that figure, but he did tell senators this week stepped up enforcement could put a significant dent in the tax gap.
Hopefully, everyone filed on time. If not . . .
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Monday, May 24, 2021. Barham Salih is suddenly interested in terrorism, another activist is assassinated, coalition ocnvoys continue to be targeted, public threats are issued, and much more.
Iraq on Sunday reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian cause, while calling for fostering unity among Palestinian parties via dialogue.
Iraqi leaders made the pledges during their meetings with visiting Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Baghdad on Sunday, after a ceasefire ended the 11-day fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
A statement by the media office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said that al-Kadhimi told al-Maliki that "Iraq will not abandon the Palestinian cause, which enjoys popular, political, and official support".
Al-Kadhimi also stressed the importance of holding Palestinian dialogue to unify the Palestinian parties, the statement said, adding that al-Kadhimi pledged to support Palestine through regional and international positions and contacts.
On Arabic social media, many of the users are doing the work that the western press failed to do. Specifically? Not only did the western press wrongly credit the Iraqi protests supporting the Palestinians to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, they also ignored Moqtada's long history of being anti-Palestinian.
Using Arabic and English language outlets, stopping with THE TELEGRAPH OF LONDON in 2006, they've traced back all the public attacks that he and his 'movement' (cult) served up on Palestinians over the years. Yes, Moqtada supports the Palestinians . . . when he can use them against Israel. But he's also trashed them and so have his spokespeople over the years. How supportive of the Palestinians, wondered one social media user, can Moqtada really be if he was calling for them to be expelled from Iraq? If he was attacking the ones that had lived in Iraq for decades?
It's a good question. It's not one that the western media will ever pick up on, but it is a good question.
Moqtada's very long and public thoughts on Palestinians don't really jibe with the current aims of the Iraqi government. PRESS TV notes:
Baghdad has held the first edition of an international conference on supporting Palestinian resistance, with top Iraqi officials, including the president and prime minister of the Arab country, giving speeches in support of the Palestinian cause.
During the conference, which was held on Saturday, Iraqi officials renewed their country’s pledge to support Palestine and condemned the Israeli regime’s brutality against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, foreigners remain targeted in Iraq. MEHR NEWS AGENCY reports, "A US-led coalition convoy was targeted in southern Iraq on Sunday night. According to a security source, an explosive device exploded on the route of the American convoy as it crossed a highway in Basra province." This attack follows the ones previously reported early Sunday by PRESS TV:
Four logistics convoys belonging to the US-led coalition in Iraq have been targeted in separate roadside bomb attacks in the country's south and center, according to local media sources.
On Sunday, Iraq's Sabereen News said that one of the attacks took place on Samawah-Baghdad road in the southern province of Muthanna, and the other in Diwaniyah Province.
The third blast took place on a road in the city of Hillah in Iraq’s central province of Babil.
Meanwhile, another logistics convoy was struck by an explosive device in the city of Nasiriyah in the Dhi Qar province, southern Iraq.
As these attacks continue and escalate, the US military is focused on . . . drone attacks. ARAB NEWS reports:
The US military commander in the Middle East has issued a new warning over the threat from armed drones launched by Iran-backed militias in Iraq.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said the drones were difficult to detect and destroy, and he admitted the US was struggling to deal with them. Finding better ways to counter such attacks was a top priority, he said.
“We’re working very hard to find technical fixes that would allow us to be more effective against drones,” McKenzie said. Efforts were underway to look for ways to cut command and control links between a drone and its operator, improve radar sensors to quickly identify the threat as it approached, and find effective ways to bring them down.
“We’re open to all kinds of things,” he said. “The army is working it very hard. Still, I don’t think we’re where we want to be.”
PRESS TV notes, "His remarks came a month after an explosives-laden drone targeted American forces at a US-operated military base in northern Iraq causing a large fire and damage to a building. Though no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Washington has blamed what it commonly refers to as 'Iran-backed militia groups' for previous attacks on its military installations throughout Iraq." AP notes, "The drones are cheap and easy to buy, and they're often difficult to detect and problematic to defeat."
A group of influential Iran-backed Shiite militias has threatened to escalate attacks against American troops in Iraq.
It said the outcome of the ongoing strategic dialogue with the US lacked explicit commitments for the forces’ withdrawal.
For more than a year, Baghdad and Washington have been holding talks to clarify the nature of their relationship, including the US military presence in Iraq.
The talks also cover security, counterterrorism, economics and energy, political matters and educational and cultural co-operation.
The Iraqi Resistance Co-ordination Committee said it gave the current Iraqi government the opportunity to decide the fate of the foreign troops in three rounds of negotiations with the US.
“But the outcome of the last two rounds – especially the farce during the second round – was very bad and regrettable,” the committee, which includes the Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl Al Haq, Sayyid Al Shuhada and Al Nujaba militias, said in a statement issued on Saturday.
The latest round of talks, on April 7, was the first with the administration of US President Joe Biden.
After that meeting, led by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, both countries agreed on the “redeployment” of combat troops, transitioning the mission of the US and coalition forces to one focusing on training and advisory tasks.
But they have not established a timetable for the withdrawal, and said the timing would be decided after technical talks.
A few weeks later, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, Gen Kenneth McKenzie, told the US Congress: “I don’t see us completely withdrawing from Iraq in the future.”
Same topic, Khazan Jangiz (RUDAW) reports on threats against the US military:
Iraqi Shiite militias on Saturday issued a statement renewing threats
against American forces in Iraq over what they said is a US refusal to
completely withdraw its troops from the country.
“The American administration, by refusing the exit of its forces, has sent us the clear message that they only understand the language of force,” the Iraqi Resistance Coordination said on Saturday in statement published on Sabreen News, a Telegram channel linked to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic).
The statement criticized the Iraqi government as “unable to fulfill the will of the Iraqi people by expelling the occupation forces from their land, preserving their sovereignty, and defending their constitution” saying the use of force will escalate against US forces so they are “defeated.”
Staying with violence, Another assassination took place Saturday. Layal Shakir (RUDAW) reports Hashem al-Mashhadani of the Sunni Azm Coaltion was assassinated in Baghdad. Shakir notes:
There have been a series of assassinations of activists and journalists in recent months in Iraq, with investigations yielding little to no results.
A Karbala activist was shot dead and a journalist in Diwaniyah was critically injured by unknown gunmen within 24 hours of each other in early May.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 10, 2021.
We'll note this Tweet about the assassination:
A prominent Iraqi activist and parliamentary candidate has been shot dead by unknown gunmen in Baghdad, the third targeted killing this month.
Hashim Al Mashhadani was killed late on Saturday by an armed group in a village near Taramiyah district, north of Baghdad, where ISIS fighters are known to operate.
He had nominated himself for the coming parliamentary elections as a member of the Azim Alliance, led by Iraqi politician Khamis Khanjar.
“Such ongoing killings are considered terrorist acts as they target the country’s national security, as well as impact the credibility of the coming elections,” said Ali Al Bayati, a member of the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.
“The state must end impunity by taking real steps to refer to security officials whose responsibility is to end the violence through investigation,” he said.
Mr Al Bayati said statements of government condolences were not the solution. He said the government’s responsibility was "to fix the rule of law, otherwise the external view of Iraq will be that it is under the control of non-state groups”.
Mr Al Bayati told The National: “This is a clear sign of failure, which the international community is responsible for as well.”
Another killed, the third this month. Where's the government? Sleeping on the job, ignoring reality.
The Iraqi government can show outrage . . . over money. Ali Jawad (ANADOLU AGENCY) reports that Iraq's President Barham Salih gave a speech yesterday stating that, since the start of the Iraq War, $150,000,000,000 in oil revenues had been smuggled out of Iraq. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds:
Samir Salama (GULF NEWS) quotes Barham declaring, "Of the nearly $1,000 billion made from oil since 2003, an estimated $150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of Iraq." Salih Tweeted the following:
Barham Salih is concerned about terrorism . . . when it has to do with money. When it has to do with the lives of the Iraqi people? Not one bit. What activist family has he visited? What efforts has he made, as the president of the country, to bring one of the killers to justice?
Yes, Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been an abject failure as prime minister but what has Barham done? He spent his term elevating the role of the president. It's a ceremonial post -- or was. But since Saleh has assumed the post, the international press has treated it as though he was the leader f the country. But as a leader, he's offered no leadership.
Listening to him rage against terrorism is a bit laughable at this point and really makes it appear he's more concerned with the money than with the lives of the Iraqi people.
This is a wave of attacks and the leaders of Iraq do nothing. Sura Alie (RUDAW) reported yesterday afternoon:
A prominent activist in the city of Nasiriyah has survived a
“vicious” assassination attempt, a local activist confirmed to Rudaw,
after a “sticky bomb” was attached to his car.
This comes two weeks after the assassination of prominent Karbala activist and protest leader Ihab al-Wazni, threatening an unprecedented escalation in the targeting of activists in Iraq prior to the October elections.
A “sticky bomb”, an explosive device attached to vehicles and detonated remotely, targeted Imad al-Aqili’s car on Saturday, exploding near the city’s Faleh Pasha Grand Mosque, activist Mohammed Khayat confirmed to Rudaw.
Aqili is in stable condition after undergoing surgery, he added.
An hour after the incident, dozens of protesters stormed the Dhi Qar governorate building, calling for the dismissal of the local government. Other angry protesters headed to al-Haboubi Square, the city’s centerpoint for demonstrations, condemning the escalation of assassinations, which are largely attributed to Iran-backed militias.
“The assassination attempt was viscous, but we are still heading towards Baghdad tomorrow, and we don’t fear anything,” Khayat said.
Over and over, the government does nothing. Over and over, the killers -- members of Moqtada's goon squad and members of the Iraqi forces -- walk away without punishment.
THE Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) has called on supporters to join a mass demonstration tomorrow demanding an investigation into killings of anti-government protesters.
It wants those responsible to be found and brought to justice, as nearly 600 people have been killed since an uprising began in most major cities in October 2019.
Thousands are expected to join rallies across the country organised under the slogan “Who Killed Me” as they raise the voices of martyrs killed by unknown militia forces.
“The series of assassinations, kidnappings and assaults against protesters and civil activists are not just ordinary criminal offences, but political actions and political crimes,” ICP spokesman Raed Fahmy said.
“It is the responsibility of the government and the security services” to find out who killed the protesters he added, saying they must protect the right to freedom of expression ahead of October’s parliamentary elections.
That's the May 25th protests that were called last week by the family of Ihab al-Wazni.
Tara Ashour Tweets:
Salam Adel Algaim Tweets:
Iraq's president Barham Salih gave a major televised address yesterday, he invoked terrorism and crime, but he never said a word about the real terrorism of targeting activists, the real crime of these continued assassinations. Barham made clear that his personal god is Greed and that he worships at the alter of avarice.
Closing with this statement from Black Alliance for Peace:
As the zionist occupier unleashes another round of genocidal violence against Gaza, the Black Alliance for Peace stands firmly with the Palestinian people in their long and just struggle against the depravities of settler colonialism. Over the past week the zionist occupier has brutally bombed homes, schools, media houses, killing at least [200 people, including 59 children] since the writing of this statement and still climbing. We know that the latest escalation comes after a series of illegal, immoral, and racist acts initiated by the zionist occupiers: the attempted forced evictions of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem; and the assault on the Al Aqsa Mosque (the third holiest site in Islam) during Ramadan and one of the holiest days in Islam, a day before Eid al Fitr.
We also know that May 15th marked the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba or “The Catastrophe,” when the zionist occupiers drove more than 700,000 Palestinians off their land, with hundreds of thousands landing – and remaining until this day – in refugee camps. Today, there are more than 4 million registered Palestinian refugees worldwide. Since then, the constant land grabbing and state-sponsored terror by the occupation illegal government, have left Palestinians as refugees in their own land, separated from family and friends by road blocks and walls, cramped in the open air prison that is the Gaza strip, under constant surveillance, and brutalized by military force, including bombing, assassinations, and indefinite detentions.
The latest attacks represent the ongoing Palestinian Nakba.
But we know that the ongoing Nakba is only possible because of the Pan-European white supremacist and imperial support for the crimes of the zionist entity. The settler colonial state of the U.S., for example, supports this entity with $3.8 billion a year in military aid. It also continues to support the settler’s land expropriation, and provides legal cover for zionism’s atrocities through its undemocratic veto power on the UN Security Council.
Revolutionary Africans must stand with the Palestinian struggle against settler colonialism. We know that this settler colony was planted in the Middle East by imperialism to serve the dictates of the Pan-European white supremacist colonial/capitalist project. It is why we must also understand the ways that zionism has and continues to work against African liberation. The zionist occupier of Palestinian lands and people gave political, economic, and military support to the racist apartheid regime in Azania/South Africa to further the oppression and exploitation of African people. And currently, Jewish Africans from Ethiopia serve as cheap, exploited labor and suffer from the most egregious racism at the hands of their fellow “Jews” from zionist Israel in occupied Palestine. There is also the continuing racist treatment of Black migrants (from Eritrea, Sudan, and Ethiopia) in the settler colony.
The zionist occupier in Palestine currently poses an existential threat for African and other oppressed communities. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commandos train security forces in more than a dozen African nations in tactics they use to control, colonize, incarcerate and terrorize Palestinian people. Israel also engages in policing exchanges with local U.S. police forces to promote and extend some of the most violent policies, behaviors, and tactics of the U.S. settler state disproportionately used against African (Black) and indigenous people.
A stand against zionism is a stand against colonization and a demand for the return of the land to Palestinians. It is a call for the end of settler genocide. It is also part and parcel of the African people’s struggle for true liberation. African People must be a part of the struggle against zionism. We must see, therefore, that the zionist dehumanization of Palestinians and its culture of anti-Blackness depend on the same system - white supremacy.
The Palestinian resistance against zionist expansion and genocide is a just struggle. Palestine will be free because its struggle is supported by the majority of the people of the world. The Black Alliance for Peace stands with Palestine, and its call for self-determination!
Support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
No compromise! No retreat!
The U.S. Out of Africa Network (USOAN) is a network of volunteers committed to strategizing around creative and radical tactics for the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Africa, the demilitarization of the African continent, the closure of U.S. military bases throughout the world, pressuring the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to unequivocally oppose AFRICOM and conduct hearings on its impact on the African continent. The USOAN is the driving force for the U.S. Out of Africa! Shutdown AFRICOM! campaign of the Black Alliance for Peace.