The Tuesday night, I was very displeased with The Daily Show. Jon Stewart discussed the IRS non-scandal. I thought it was very typical of his occasional hit jobs on the Democrats, which he does apparently because he feels the need to keep his credibility. Although truly, it wasn’t so much a hit job on the Democrats, but rather the government. It is just that the Democrats are the only party that admits to believing we should have a government. I am so tired of this.
There is bureaucracy in any institution that gets large enough. This means that there are bureaucracies in government, business, religion, even family. I don’t like it when people claim that there is some big problem with the government bureaucracy. Over my lifetime, I have seen the government get better and better at serving its citizenry. At the same time, as we have seen corporations get bigger and bigger, I have seen their bureaucracies get worse and worse. And there is literally nothing that any of us can do, unlike in the case of the government where we actually have representatives.
Last night on The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell saw the segment differently than I did. But then he went on to mention a couple of things that Stewart notably left out. Watch the segment below, because it really is rather good. There was one thing that really annoyed me in The Daily Show segment that O’Donnell didn’t mention. This was Stewart’s offhand comment that conservative groups were more scrutinized. This is not a statement of fact. There were more conservative groups than liberal groups that were scrutinized. I think this was because there were a lot more conservative groups requesting 501(c)4 status. So basically, Jon Stewart was using statistics to lie. O’Donnell added an important point that almost always gets left out: of the groups so wronged by IRS scrutiny, only one actually got denied and it was a liberal group.
But my broader annoyance with The Daily Show segment was the way it was second guessing the IRS. The truth is the 150 MB size of the email in-boxes is not an unreasonable size. I have been using Gmail for roughly eight years now. I have over a dozen email accounts I use it for. I save everything I get that is not spam. And in that time, I’ve only just made it over 1 GB in total storage. It’s easy to point fingers now and say, “Oh, you should have larger in-boxes!” But there will always be these issues.
Stewart also complained that the IRS only keeps email going back six months and then compares that to how long we tax payers have to hold onto records. Now, there is an actual issue here, but it has nothing to do with email or the IRS non-scandal. Once you owe the government money, you always owe it. But if the government owes you a refund and you don’t file for it within three years, well, it’s gone. So imagine the years 1995-1999 where a citizen didn’t file taxes and owed the following to the IRS (parentheses indicate negative values—the IRS owes the citizen): ($5,000), ($6,000), ($7,000), ($5,000), and $3,000. Our citizen paid $20,000 too much in taxes. But he now owes $3,000 in taxes in addition to very large penalties. I actually find that outrageous, but I’m not sure where the humor is.
Regardless, I didn’t find the Stewart segment funny. Complaining about the bureaucracy is more tired than stand-up routines about air travel from the 1970s. But I do think this is all about The Daily Show keeping its “credibility” as an objective arbiter of truth. And that creates a problem. Every time anyone complains that they don’t get their facts right, they point out that they are a comedy show. But if that’s true, why the pretense at objectivity? It’s very clear when Stewart and the gang are just phoning it in. That’s what we saw last week, which is particularly sad, given that the second sequence that made fun of rich Democrats pleading poverty worked quite well. Of course, it is rare that Democrats provide such a rich target as Hillary Clinton claiming the family was broke when they left the White House.
See also: Mainstream Media Freak Out More Than Fox.