IRS

Commentary by Pete du Pont
Host intro: a recent Wall Street Journal article reported that the Internal Revenue Service had given up on a new computer program after almost $300 million down the drain because its people weren't smart enough to program it. Commentator Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis is laughing through his tears.

Actually, what they said was they didn't have "the intellectual capital." This caught my attention for two reasons. First, my online magazine is called intellectual capital, and I thought maybe they were giving me a discreet plug. Second, it was one of the few things the IRS has ever said that I could understand, namely, that their culture of secrecy wouldn't let them ask for outside help.

Supposedly it's because they don't want outsiders looking at your records. They think they're infallible, and the private sector isn't. But how much worse can outsiders do? The agency itself can't figure out how fast they do things, at what cost and with what quality. When asked how they could make solid decisions without this information, a high-ranking IRS official responded, "hell if I know. It's a guessing game."

Which of course leads to an important question: what else are they guessing at? Your tax returns? Their audit policies? Interpreting the indecipherable tax code? Congress gives the IRS $8 billion a year and hasn't tried to reform the agency since the '50s. It's time for congress to rip the lid off, and pour in some fresh intellectual capital.

Those are my ideas. And at the NCPA, we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Host outro: Other places, they kill the messenger. In Washington, they kill the message. Pete du Pont explains on Wednesday.