Tuesday in a Senate Finance Committee meeting, Senator Johnny Isakson “highlighted the contrast” between the Senate’s ongoing USA PATRIOT Act debate and the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ that greeted the news of 100,000 identities stolen from an IRS database. An excerpt of his statement:
We’re getting ready to take that authority away from [the NSA], yet here we have the commissioner of the IRS talking about 104,000 Americans that had their identity stolen. And yet when I file my tax return on April 15th each year, [the IRS] knows how much money I make, how much my wife makes, what church I go to, who I give the money to, whether or not I had a casualty loss, where I buy stocks, where I buy bonds and how much I owe on my house.
A few concerns for the argumentative: the NSA metadata collection program is seen by many as a gross violation of the 4th Amendment, while the IRS’s power to tax (and, presumably, collect the data that entails) is guaranteed by the 16th Amendment. The IRS would be better able to protect citizens’ data if they were better funded, which, while loathsome, is simply a good investment for the honest taxpayer.
Finally, the IRS or something like it is necessary for our modern democracy to function. Even under a Fair Tax system, some government functionary has to monitor that your corner QuikTrip isn’t hiding revenue. There is no evidence to suggest that NSA spying has ever thwarted a terrorist attack.
None of which changes the central principle: the less the government knows about me, the better I feel.