Saturday, April 26, 2003

The varieties of stealing. Reader JP points out a logical inconsistency in yesterday's New York Times story on the IRS crackdown aimed at poor and working-class families who benefit from the earned-income tax credit. It is an inconsistency that Media Log blushingly confesses to having missed entirely.

The Times story noted that tax-credit fraud costs the government less than $10 billion a year, whereas corporate tax shelters cost more than $50 billion. But as JP notes, those who are wrongly collecting the earned-income tax credit are engaged in criminal activity, whereas corporate tax shelters are perfectly legal.

Of course, if poor people had the lobbying muscle of corporations, cheating on the earned-income tax credit would be enshrined in the tax code as a positive good. Like the old Bob Dylan line says, "Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king."

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