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Fair Taxes/Violence in Gaza

Ralph welcomes former IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, to tell us what must be done to create a fairer tax system. And Professor Rashid Khalidi joins us to break down the latest violent escalation in Gaza. Plus, Ralph has some choice words about Apple’s latest record earnings.

John Koskinen was the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service from late 2013 to late 2017. As Commissioner, Mr. Koskinen presided over the nation’s tax system, which collects approximately $3.3 trillion in tax revenue each year and funds most government operations and public services.

I was concerned, as I told the appropriators in testimony in both the House and the Senate, that I didn’t want them, after the fact, to say ‘Gee, we didn’t know the impact of these budget cuts.’ So, I told them that if they kept cutting the budget, taxpayer services would suffer, auditing and collections would suffer… And I said when you cut the budget, what you’re really doing is giving a tax cut to tax cheats. And nobody ever disagreed with the fact that if you give more money to the IRS, the government collects more money.

John Koskinen, former IRS Commissioner


Somebody had the interesting idea that, in addition to increasing the child tax credit…  periodic payments– they hoped it would be monthly– would be made of the child tax credit. And the IRS has never paid anybody anything monthly, or periodically, in its history. So that’s another major IT challenge ahead of them.

John Koskinen, former IRS Commissioner


One of the challenges now with the understaffing of the IRS and the additional requirements to do things like issue the stimulus checks, is its way behind in processing refund claims. And so you can read in newspaper articles, people saying, ‘where’s my refund’ and I think it’s important to note that these problems aren’t because the IRS work force and personnel don’t care. I’ve never dealt with a more dedicated group of people.

John Koskinen, former IRS Commissioner


I’ve always said, the most corrosive thing to tax enforcement is if people begin to think that everybody else isn’t paying their fair share.”

John Koskinen, former IRS Commissioner


I thought a fair accusation that I made against [Republicans in Congress] was that they are aiding and abetting tax evasion. Not tax avoidance. Tax evasion. And the Democrats seemed unwilling to really take them on. Because they feared that the polls showed that anything defending the IRS was unpopular among the general public.”

Ralph Nader


Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for StatehoodBrokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013), and The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017.

The trigger for all of this was this attempt to displace a number of families in Sheikh Jarrah… an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem – on the basis of old property claims that supposedly entitled the settlers – who purchased these deeds from others – the right to expel the residents, who were set up there by the Jordanian government many decades ago, after being driven from their own homes and property by the state of Israel in 1948. And the irony here of course is that, while property claims to property that… supposedly was owned by Jews before 1948 are being enforced by the oppressive might of the Israeli state. Claims of Palestinians to their property in West Jerusalem, which had large Arab neighborhoods before 1948, or in Jaffa or Haifa, where many of the residents of this Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood come from, those property claims are inadmissible under Israeli law.

Professor Rashid Khalidi, author of The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017

The story of the rockets [in Gaza] has never been told…  these are garage-built, homemade rockets. They fired thousands of them over the years into Israel… Now the Israeli reporters and Israeli human rights groups have long pointed out that Gaza is under the greatest surveillance, technologically, in world history… [Israeli forces know] everything that is going on. How do they allow these rockets to be built and fired?

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 375 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Don Rimmer says:

    For some time I thought on the lines of what Mr. Koskinen suggested, that making tax calculations easier would lead to a better civic impression of the IRS, greater trust in the tax system, and more willing participation.
    I propose most trouble comes from deductions. Too much subjectivity exists in interpreting what qualifies as allowable deductions and how to apply them. Most corruptions takes place here, in my estimation.
    The easiest way to overcome this dilemma and simplify the process is to simply forget deductions and net calculations, and base all tax obligations on a percentage of gross income. Percentages will obviously be much lower, but collections potentially much higher.
    This should be progressive by design. Below a specific threshold, no tax obligation should exist. Percentages should increase with higher incomes. Businesses could be categorized in several ways with rates assigned for each classification.
    Basically, what you do (or a company does) with the remainder of monies is discretionary. This surely will meet with resistance as some deductible expenses are deemed socially beneficial, such as charitable contributions, but many of these are made simply to avoid paying tax and favor the donor (e.g. the Gates foundation). I suspect some of the extra monies collected could be made available for societies benefit to compensate, but in a more democratic manner.
    It will take some time for the economic system to adjust, but that is true of all major change. Nothing could be easier to calculate, enforcement becomes much easier, and ridiculous refunds to profitable corporations made a thing of the past. There is , after all,, beauty in simplicity.

    • Bruce K. says:

      > Below a specific threshold, no tax obligation should exist.

      That is a thing that most people can agree on, and yet that is practically not how things work when you look at total taxation.

      I would add two things, above a certain level taxation should be 100% There should be a maximum amount of wealth that an individual can have or control, and it should be set by some ratio of wealthy, number of citizens, total wealth, government revenue. … with the intention that there should a diversity of the group at the top.

      For example, Occupy Wall St. talked about the 1%, So take the lowest wealth level of the one-percenter and confiscate tax down the wealth of all other 1%ers until the 1%ers are all equally powerful. Economic equality will mean political equality and if conditions are right that group should be diverse enough not to be threat to everyone else as they are in all countries to their citizens now.

      On the lower end, as people are realizing now, it is insufficient to simply not force people below a certain level to pay taxes, because the economy is the only game in town, and it is inherently, unfair, dehumanizing and tends to corruption; a UBI, universal basic income should be defined and calculated to allow people to live independently until the system can work them into the economy to their mutual satisfaction.

      In other words the economy must be analyzed, publicly modeled and explained and democratically tuned to work fairly, otherwise things always devoting into corruption and tyranny.

      Finally the laws must be accessible and simple enough that most citizens can understand them and comment on them publicly, and part of legislators’ jobs should be to acknowledge comments and respond, and patch legislation as needed.

  2. Don Harris says:

    Not on topic, but this would not load as a listener question.

    Your recent article on the demise of NPR from it’s original mission was well done.

    The flaw with the idea was it was created by government action and controlled by government. As the government became controlled by corporations NPR suffered the same fate.

    The solution is a media conglomerate that is controlled by ordinary citizens to provide information that ordinary citizens want and need.

    A non-profit corporation can be set up selling shares for one hundred dollars to buy up/start up radio , TV, internet, newspapers, etc to form this media conglomerate overseen by a board with people like you on it. These shares can only be owned by American citizens and no person can own more than ten shares. The shares can only be sold for one hundred dollars as the purpose of owning the shares is to control the media and not make money off the price of the shares.

    Just 10% of the 150 million 2020 voters investing just one hundred dollars would total 1.5 billion dollars.

    Just half of that 10% investing the maximum of one thousand dollars would total 7.5 billion.

    This media conglomerate might even carry the Ralph Nader Radio Hour bringing it into many new markets.

    NPR has strayed from it’s roots. Isn’t it time for you to return to your roots by informing citizens about this possible solution to corporate controlled media that is the epitome of the Citizens Watchdog groups that you have often talked about?

    • Victor says:

      As it stands now, the NPR isn’t even a public entity but a commercial one masquerading as public. The fact that it now runs commercials should be enough to strip it of its nonprofit status. I stopped donating years ago and I hope you too.

  3. Victor says:

    Adopt a low flat tax and abolish the IRS.

    • Bruce K. says:

      Fascist and unworkable for many reasons.
      This almost 30 years old debate from Firing Line explains why …
      A Firing Line Debate: Resolved: That the Flat Tax Is Better than the Income Tax:

      One major thing that seems to separate Democrat from Republican is the over-arching importance of Math education. And maybe morals and ethics?

      • Victor says:

        Fascist— ah, the epithet to end all epithets.
        Unworkable—If you knew economic history (or any other) you would know that this magnificent country has had an income tax for a shorter than it has not. And we did just fine when we didn’t. It when it was IMPOSED, it was to finance two wars (civil war and first world war) and was supposed to be provisional and only applicable to very high earners. The first time it was suspended in 1872, the second one….it was here to stay.

  4. Bruce K. says:

    > The solution is a media conglomerate that is controlled by ordinary citizens to provide information that ordinary citizens want and need.

    One could then argue that the basic source of wealth in all industries should fall under democratic government regulation. I can see it in principle, but not how that could happen in practice, especially at this point in our history. An awful lot is riding on Joe Biden right now.

    • Don Harris says:

      Not sure how you get from a non-profit media conglomerate owned by ordinary citizens without government involvement to the basic source of wealth for all industries falling under democratic government regulation or why.

      If you are betting on Joe Biden I hope you used the method of only betting what you can afford to lose as Joe Biden is benefiting from the media propaganda machine we have now.

      Also not sure what you can see in principle but not in practice.

      If you are talking about the wealth in all industries thing I don’t see it in principle or practice.

      If you are talking about the media conglomerate owned by citizens it could easily happen in practice if Ralph gets a few other people that report on the inadequacy of the current media offered to form the non-profit, start selling shares and buying up/starting up media.

      There is no law against it or else the media we have now is breaking the law.

      If we start now it could even be operational for the 2022 elections.

      • Bruce K. says:

        > Not sure how you get from a non-profit media conglomerate owned by
        > ordinary citizens without government involvement to the basic source
        > of wealth for all industries falling under democratic government
        > regulation or why.

        Basically that falls out from the principle of the commons. As Ralph Nader often points out certain things are the domain of all Americans like the airwaves for example. The commons of the American continent was first stolen from the aboriginal peoples, and then from the American public, and now like a Game of Monopoly in the final stages from everyone else who is not a player any longer. The land, the minerals, the sustaining power of most of the soil, the trees, the air, the water the soil, all owned and directed for purposes of sustain a system that works for fewer and fewer people. It is not solely the media that keeps this going – the media maintains the fantasy veneer, but beneath that is everything else.

        What have we all really gotten from that paradigm? We have a elite arguably psychopathic minority that maintains their bubble of what they think of is beauty while externalizing all the crimes, pollution, responsibility to the people they “rule”, etc.

        Why should the commons not have a legal structure around them, and in that case be “owned” or “managed” or “regulated” in the best interests of the people and the planet. The only answer I can think of is that who would do the regulating, and what power would enforce their regulation.

        It is not really like we do not have that in principle now, it is just a mess and hidden from the citizenry – except for the toxic and perhaps fatal disastrous consequences of our bad stewardship.

        • Don Harris says:

          Again I don’t see the connection between citizens taking action on one of the tools of the oligarchy (the media) without government help because as you describe the government we have is not doing the job and expecting to solve the problem with more government that will not do what you say government should do.

          You are right that we have the ability to take action in principle.

          And citizens themselves working together putting those principles into action is both the who and the how and the power to do the regulating. For the media we put our money behind a media conglomerate controlled by ordinary citizens instead of corporations. For the politicians we put our money and our votes behind politicians that will do what we expect because they will be working for the ordinary citizens that voted for them and financed their campaigns instead of putting our votes behind politicians that are financed by the corporations.

          We seem to mostly agree on the what, so how does more explaining the what what have anything to do with the how?

          • Bruce K. says:

            > We seem to mostly agree on the what,
            > so how does more explaining the what
            > what have anything to do with the how?

            I don’t know what more I could say in reply to
            your question.

            As to the how, I guess how I would tie in what I said before to something practical is that to get through to people you need a simple, direct and emotionally rousing narrative, and I think the commons and how an almost militaristic elite, at least to some of us, have taken over the natural resources, the environment, and more and more of people’s lives to the point that it is crushing people and very obvious that there is not really such a thing as citizenship in America, or a social contract any more, it is for more people a rigged game presented by weaponized money.

            A book called “The End Of The Megamachine” explains the system the best I have seen. It is that kind of directness and simplicity that may be able to bring people together into a common vision of the problem, and solution.

  5. Wendyyona says:

    I called Senators Marco Rubio & Rick Scott 2x &
    Left same message. i also called New York Times
    NationaL Desk, this time for Problem that the Prisoners* In Palestine Face. (*Prisioners, because they “R” NoT ALLowED THEIR PASSPORTS until they’re Free)
    Am o correct, SiR. .(N)…(Y).

    Did the Taxpayers Agree to USA Moving a PERMANENT Military Base in ISREAL !! and is USA acting like they are Isrealis because they are white & we “R”brown, “R”has is with waves & curles & “R”EyEs Nile Blue.
    Must we all be “Albino.Chalk.AsiaN.White; with silky Free Flowing perfect hair & in love with their Danish
    German like looks. (N)..fY) please say there is lSethi g More to uS All than that 🏮 we need to Open “R” Hearts & Minds What is best for ian is Best for”R” Neighbor
    Also, Capish; for.staich.Understand.

    How do we get “in sync”. Copy Daneland, Netherlands,
    Germany, Japan, Cuba for education. Now that the USA has” DESTROYED TTHE LIBRARIES of ea ” Destination”.
    Didn’t Iraq have More University’s w LIBRARYS than anywhere globally. They’re gone.

    Now the white People (From AchVitch) are killing the brow. Arabs. Why…. NotWhite enough ??
    How could that be ? REMEMBER when ABroman & Sori
    Family & Livestock to Trade.Left India for AfricA because AfricA trades with Gold. As they traveled,
    Moses Married Zaporah the EthopiaN & they lived to birth a Family of at least 5 & separates from Aaron the AeRoN a& Sister MaryaM who Looked down on Zapora s Moses took His Much Love Wife, Father & Family & left
    Their Leader the. Became the Priest & AdvisoR JoshuA bin NooN, son of Epheriam, grandson of Joseph with the Dream interpreter who saw that everyone had SEEDS to PLANT (same as today) & Joseph Married Ascenneth, Daughter if the PriesT of NooN.(so)
    & was the So. The brothers cast ur into the dessert w His Fathets Accounting Mind & Coat of many colors.
    Moses Married walnut brown. Maybe he was Almond Tree brown.
    So to date, 330 +WH =331 of our 536 =
    205are NoT CONTRACTED .2. AIPAC (+) 331 aRe.
    WHY should
    We have to worry about “R”EMPLOYEES ??.??
    Said the Blind one to the Carpenter who Picked uP His HammeR & SaW.

    Thank You S0 MICH 4
    Teaching uS ALL &
    LISTENING to “R” QuestioNS
    & ShareingUR ReSearch~+~ReSultS

  6. I was quite distressed to hear Ralph Nader espousing tax collection to prevent carrying debt to our grandchildren. The fact is that the federal government does not need taxes to fund its operations. For a sovereign government that issues its own currency, spending creates money and taxation destroys money. The sole purpose of taxation by the sovereign government is to destroy money so that it doesn’t accumulate in the economy and cause inflation.

    The massive amounts of money injected into the economy without causing an increase in the Consumer Price Index is because the money went into the upper echelons of society. There, we see massive inflation. The stock market, the art market, housing, and all the things the rich invest in are booming because of the excess money circulating there.

    Stephanie Kelton’s, “The Deficit Myth,” is an excellent introduction to Modern Money Theory. Since the world abandoned the gold standard, MMT has emerged as the best explanation of how modern money works. Its biggest shortcoming is that it doesn’t do a good job of explaining how it SHOULD work.

    • Bruce K. says:

      Stephanie Kelton’s, “The Deficit Myth,” is nowhere rigorous enough to prove her point.

      There is a lot written about MMT, and in general I am onboard with it, which I read mostly as democratizing investment across the economy and people instead of trickling-up more and more money and power to the political elites. Our mostly hidden and anonymous American, and foreign power elites are not elected and dominate our country in almost every aspect to the point where it appears democracy is scheduled to be snuffed out despite a last gasp effort of the people to try to take back the vote. I’m fearful that Biden is too little, too late, and maybe just another follow-on to the Clinton-Obama-Biden blame it all on the Republicans act.

      At this point demanding a total change of the world economy based on one book and an idea that is sadly not taken seriously by the financial elites is just another distraction to the real issue – which itself has exploded into such complexity and broadness that there is no one making it simple and understandable for people to digest and come together on.

    • Victor says:

      Good points!

  7. Don Harris says:

    A simple direct and emotionally rousing narrative.

    “Take Big Money- Lose Our Votes”.

    Ralph has said politicians want our votes more than the big money.

    Let’s find out if that is true by demanding small donor candidates and enforcing that demand with our votes.

    You describe what we need, to get big money out of our political process, but provide no means to achieve it other than rhetoric that actually describes what I am proposing as a solution which is based on the same principle as Ralph’s statement about politicians wanting our votes more than big money and the basic principles of democracy.

    What more could you say?

    You could say this idea might work and why or might not work and why.

    If you say it might work you could say to Ralph that he should inform citizens about this idea to test his theory in action as citizens’ and Ralph’s inaction on testing Ralph’s theory has put us where we are now.