Beware, the tax man cometh
Ashley Varner on the 87,000 new IRS employee union members
Thomas Jefferson observed, "When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."
Which of those two are we experiencing today? Does the government fear us, or do we fear the government?
Nothing personifies the threat to individual liberties more than the Internal Revenue Service, the agency which enforces the Internal Revenue Code and other federal statutes dealing with taxation. The IRS has just been given funding by the Biden Administration and the complacent congress to hire 87,000 agents to enforce the Internal Revenue Code.
But don't worry. They won’t collect additional taxes from anybody earning less than $400,000 a year (or so they promise).
Ashley Varner is Vice President of Communication and Federal Affairs with the Freedom Foundation – not just a think tank, but a battle tank, taking on Big Unions, Big Government, and anything that threatens our individual rights.
Today, Ashley will help us understand what this additional IRS hiring actually means to us common folk.
The Bob Zadek Show is the country's longest running libertarian broadcast – nationally streamed at 8 AM PT Sundays. Subscribe for weekly transcripts, book summaries and additional resources:
Links and Resources
A Teacher’s Brave Stand Against Her Union – Rebecca Friedrichs and Terry Pell
Bob Zadek: Tell us a bit about the Freedom Foundation.
Ashley Varner: Well, like you said, we're a battle tank. We don't write all that many white papers – not that there's anything wrong with that, but we really see our mission as helping free taxpayer-funded employees in the public sector from union tyranny.
We have seen union bullies up and down the West Coast in particular, all across the country. They get power and they maintain it by taking money out of taxpayer-funded paychecks, siphoning it off to their favorite politicians’ campaign coffers. And it's a vicious cycle. The politicians are bought and paid for. They then give money back to the unions. They grow the government. The government, when it gets bigger, it only means less liberty for you and me. And the cycle continues as it goes.
We stand simply to give people the choice to let them know about their rights. If they are a taxpayer-funded employee, they do not have to pay those union dues. They will be lied to. They will be coerced. They will be bullied. We're here to give them support. We even have a legal team to take on legal action on their behalf.
Bob Zadek: We will not cover in detail the tens of thousands of pages of the Internal Revenue Code. We will cover in some detail what the Biden administration has done to rearm the Internal Revenue Service by building in to current legislation- Yes, it's already been signed- the funding to provide 87,000, give or take, new agents to enforce the statute.
Now first, there is, of all things, a union component in this legislation. Unions are in your crosshairs at the Freedom Foundation. Tell us why in discussing a piece of legislation and appropriation to provide funding for 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service agents, what is the union component of all this? Why must we talk about public service unions in this conversation?
Ashley Varner: Well, because, Bob, government sector employees are the single biggest funder of radical leftist politics in this country, and they have a guaranteed revenue stream because they have a huge workforce. The government workforce is out of control. We've got a bloated government workforce. The vast majority of those people have to pay union dues because they don't know they have an option. That taxpayer dollar, that's your money. That's my money. It's not just given to people by the government. The government doesn't create any money. That's ours. So, we are paying union dues against our will, and all of those dues are then going to be turned into radical leftist politics to take more government control out of our personal lives.
But it starts with union membership. That is why it's so important that unions continually try to grow the government workforce. These 87,000 IRS agents are a guaranteed new crop of people who are going to pay into the union dues campaign coffers.
The Difference Between Public and Private Sector Unions
Bob Zadek: Those unions have an advantage that no other worker has. If they want a raise, all they need to do is to have the legislature enact legislation and they get a job and get a raise and we have no choice. Imagine if a private sector company could enact legislation to compel you to buy their service or buy their product.
Explain to us this incestuous relationship between public service unions – unions who represent workers who work for the government – why those unions have advantages baked into the system that other workers don't have.
Ashley Varner: Sure. It's an important distinction, Bob, the difference between public sector unions and private sector unions because, as you said, a private company has shareholders that they are beholden to. They have customers that they have to provide a product we want to purchase. Even private membership organizations, they have to prove to you that their membership offers you something that you want to pay for. This is the reason that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that champion of small government – loved private sector unions. FDR was against the public sector unions because he said it was inherently unfair for union representatives to sit across the table from the politicians whose campaigns they directly support without the representation of the taxpayer who funds it all, they're at the table to negotiate. That is the big difference.
“FDR was against the public sector unions because he said it was inherently unfair for union representatives to sit across the table from the politicians whose campaigns they directly support without the representation of the taxpayer who funds it all.”
When the government employees come to the leadership in the House and Senate, they say, "We want to get this inserted into the next omnibus bill – don't forget how much money we gave you. Don't forget that you're in leadership because we bought enough of your member's campaigns to put you in the leadership, to put you over the top. Remember where your money comes from.”
That's why when President Biden was campaigning in 2020, he told several union outfits when he was on the campaign trail, “I'm going to be the most pro-union president this country has ever seen.”
It's one of the few campaigns promises he's actually done quite well. But the unions have power because they can go to the Speaker of the House or the Majority Leader of the Senate or the President or the CDC in the Teachers' Union's case, and they can say, "Remember who put you here, and if you want to keep your position, you're going to do this. You're going to give us this new crop of dues deductions."
The Magnitude of Collusion Between the IRS Union and Democratic Party
Bob Zadek: I suspect you have the statistics, but how active was the Internal Revenue Service Union in drafting and adding these provisions to a piece of omnibus legislation? Was it incidental? Was it moderate? Help us understand what role they played that if one wants to be cynical, this is nothing other than pro-union legislation dressed up as trying to eliminate tax cheating.
Ashley Varner: Bob, that is an interesting question, and it's not something that people have talked about long enough because there's always a new debacle that Congress raises our taxes for or spends billions of dollars we don't have. I would love for us to be able to look into the Freedom of Information Act request to see the kind of communication between the IRS and the Department of Treasury and the leadership in the House and Senate and the Biden administration. That's what is probably going to have to happen in order for us to actually get a better idea.
Much like we found out about the communications directly from the Teachers' Unions to the CDC to keep schools closed longer during COVID, we found direct emails from the CDC asking the Teachers' Unions, how would you like this to be written. We had to get that through a Freedom of Information Act request and several organizations were working on that. It took some time, but I still think that's something that is very important to try to get some FOIA request between the Department of Treasury and the current leadership or the previous leadership in Congress prior to this election in the Biden administration. But you have to think, even if it seems minimal in the amount of emails that go back and forth, the politicians know that 87,000 IRS agents at an average of $800 to $1,000 in dues a year, that's a lot of money that they know is going to go in one direction.
Bob Zadek: What you have just tossed out as a throwaway statistic is that if one does the math, $8,000 in dues times 87,000. We just enacted legislation to provide that much money to a union. That's what we have done. There's not an incidental but a direct relationship between the federal government and the union coffers in forcing the government through a middleman called the union member. But the union member is only a middle person conveying money from the government to the union worker by hiring them and then right back to the union as the union gets their cut. So, we have implicit in that legislation is that long division, that very large number of wealth transfer from the government directly to the unions. For sure, unions made that calculation as they sat around clapping their hands and supporting this legislation.
Ashley Varner: That explanation is absolutely spot on but I only want to correct the math. The average yearly union dues is between $800 and $1,000. Not $8000, just to be very clear. But say it's $900 per federal employee and we've just hired 87,000 people times 900 union dues dollars a year. Yeah, that's a significant amount of money that's being funneled to Democratic campaign coffers through the taxpayers.
Bob Zadek: When you say Democratic campaign coffers, just to state the absurdly obvious point that unions are almost a chapter, a subset of the Democratic Party. Now I say unions, not necessarily union members. Remember, Jimmy Hoffa and Teamsters many, many, years ago were profoundly pro-Republican. So, the union members may vote differently than the union itself, but the union itself, which is more involved in its own prospering and surviving, even though it may not benefit the members, it benefits the union. Those are different benefits.
The union, as opposed to the membership, is profoundly Democratic because the Democrats have been their sugar daddy for oh so many years. So, the unions in general may not be representing the desires of the union members. I know Freedom Foundation and many other organizations, including an organization called the United States Supreme Court, have taken some steps to eliminate the requirement that union members support the unions if the unions are espousing political positions the members don't support, that's a whole other topic. We are not going to cover that today, but that relationship exists.
What 87,000 New IRS Agents Means for YOU
Now, as to this piece, this abomination of tax legislation, the Biden administration has promised, "Don't worry. We will not use any of this money. Any of these 87,000 new agents, we will not assign them the task of collecting taxes or enforcing taxes or auditing taxpayers who earn less than $400,000 a year." Now, I haven't read the whole legislation, nor have you, Ashley. I suspect you have a life, but Biden has made a promise, sort of I'm reminded of, "If you like your private insurance, you can keep it. If you like your private doctor, you can keep it." Remember that representation only a decade ago? Well, now Biden says, "If you like your tax loophole, you can keep it. If you earn less than $400,000." Is that anywhere to be found in the legislation? What is there that anybody can do to enforce that promise in the legislation?
Ashley Varner: That's a very good question, Bob, and honestly, I don't have an answer for you. Again, I haven't read the whole thing and I don't know how many people have. That would be a good research project. But we know the facts here. The past numerous years, whenever we are told that taxes are going to go up, but only on the wealthy, it's not going to impact those under $200,000, those under $400,000, Joe Biden has said a $200,000 figure just in the past couple of years, and we have found that taxes impact everyone. Inflation is a tax on everyone. The $200,000, that impacts every single person. Because when prices go up and businesses have to pass along the cost and then that's why Cardi B is talking about how lettuce has skyrocketed in recent weeks. So, we know not to trust them when they say don't worry because they've given us reasons not to trust them recently.
Bob Zadek: Well, it has been observed that although Biden has represented- a legal word, I don't think it's too strongly- represented none of the money will be used to audit taxpayers earning less than $400,000 a year. That was akin to George H. W. Bush, "No new taxes. Read my lips," and how vacuous that promise was. It was rejected as soon as the legislation was enacted. Well, Biden has made a representation which, of course, nobody can tell if it's true. It's impossible. The IRS doesn't keep those types of records.
But one thing is for sure, there is nothing in the legislation, which is the real acid test, that requires that even a dollar of this new $80 billion expenditure be used to enforce the tax law against rich taxpayers, whatever that may mean. So, if Biden made a promise, his promise is unenforceable, just as Obama's promise, "If you like your doctor, you can keep it." Just like that promise is absurdly unenforceable, has proven to be unenforceable, Biden's promise is unenforceable. If anybody out there in my show listening to this show happens to earn less than $400,000, no, you cannot breathe a sigh of relief.
And we also have some statistics. I'm a graduate of Syracuse University. Syracuse University, an incredibly mediocre college in upstate New York, has an organization called the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, TRAC to its friends. Syracuse University's TRAC just released data for fiscal 2022. Just this past year, it just ended. The statistics show that the typical audit by a revenue agent was heavily tilted toward auditing low-income taxpayers. The IRS devotes most of its energy not to wealthy taxpayers, but to low-income taxpayers because it's human nature. That's the low-hanging fruit. It's easy to find lots of money so they can close the file on a taxpayer and show they got some money from the taxpayer, and therefore their statistics go up. Statistics show that human nature within the Internal Revenue Service, human nature demonstrated by their behavior, it's trustworthy that they tend to devote most of their attention to low-income taxpayers.
Now, they will say, "Well, no, no. We start audits on wealthy taxpayers. Here are the numbers." Well, the statistics demonstrated by TRAC at Syracuse have shown that when the IRS says, "We audit wealthy taxpayers," they include as a statistic in that sending out a letter, "Can you come down to visit us or send us some backup data?" They include that to be an audit so they can cook the books. What we have is we have a piece of legislation that, unlike the vacuous unenforceable promise of President Biden, it will produce aggressive enforcement, just a continuation, aggressive enforcement of lower-income taxpayers, which means in effect, those low-income taxpayers end up paying more taxes, obviously. Now, which means it's a tax increase on low-income taxpayers, again violates a Biden promise. Now, Ashley, you are going to chime in and say my favorite thing, which is, "Bob, you're right." So, go ahead.
Ashley Varner: Bob, you're right. You're right. The IRS has been used as a weapon by both parties. They use the tax system to give perks to their favorite voting blocs in the way of subsidies, handouts. They also use the tax system to punish their political enemies. What you just said at the end, when it's going to be a tax increase on lower-income people, part of that is because lower-income people don't have accountants that they pay hundreds of dollars per hour for to go through all of their books to make sure that they find all of the legal loopholes. That's why people were saying Warren Buffett pays less in taxes than his secretary. We just found out that Donald Trump paid less in taxes because he took every available loophole. That's both parties taking advantage of the system based on what kind of accountant help they can afford.
But also, we have seen in the not-very-distant past, the IRS being used as a weapon against who they perceive as their political enemies. Do we all remember Lois Lerner from 2013 with the Tea Party organizations that couldn't get their tax-exempt status because there was a campaign at the IRS to slow roll these organizations so that they couldn't have any measurable impact in the 2012 election? Lois Lerner hasn't paid a price for that today. She had her pension, her golden parachute, and she hasn't been called to Congress to explain anything in years.
Is it Unpatriotic to Take Advantage of Tax Loopholes?
Bob Zadek: It's interesting that you mentioned. He invites himself to a lot of my shows, former President Trump, and you just crashed my show with your unannounced guest, Donald Trump? But yes, you are correct. Trump's tax returns, in a violation of clearly established norms, his personal tax returns have been made public, albeit with some redactions, but for the most part, made public. There was collective outrage on the left because he paid so little in taxes! For some years, he didn't pay any taxes! Well, he didn't pay taxes because there's no accusation, he broke the law. He didn't hide income. He didn't underreport his cash tips. What he did was he took advantage of provisions in the tax law enacted by our legislature. He took advantage of them the way I take advantage of my $10,000 deduction for home mortgage interest. Is that a loophole? Well, heck no. I'm allowed to do it and I did it, and I pay less taxes as a result.
When these public figures who have substantial income, it's disclosed! that they pay very little in taxes, all they did was take advantage of the law. That's all they did. Now, if they cheated, a different subject but there's not been that accusation. So, to say that wealthy people have loopholes, yes, they have loopholes given to them by the government. They didn't seize them in an authoritarian way. They were given that by the Congress. Anyone in Congress who complains about how little wealthy individuals paying taxes have only themselves to blame, they or their political body enacted the legislation. How is that a reflection on the honesty or the integrity, the patriotism of a wealthy individual to simply take advantage of that which the law allows? Ashley?
Ashley Varner: Wow, that's a good question. I mean, I don't think that it necessarily makes you a more loyal or patriotic person to want to hand the government more money to do with as they please rather than what you would wish. Personally, with my libertarian streak, I think that we should have a lower tax base so that people can afford to give to the charities and the private organizations that they choose, and that you don't have to have two-parent households because they have to have two parents working in order to pay the tax bill that comes at the end of the day. We're sending billions to another country to take care of their border, and we haven't sent any to our own border.
There are all kinds of things that people across the country of varying political persuasions have been asking for a change in the government, reforms in the government. No one asked for these 87,000 IRS agents unless it came from the unions who wanted to broaden their dues deductions. No one wants this. No one needs another army of tax agents coming after them. It really is, going to your point in the very beginning, is the government afraid of the people, or are they giving the people more reasons to be afraid of crossing the government?
The History of the Income Tax
Bob Zadek: I'd like to spend some time, since we are discussing the federal income tax, and I know Freedom Foundation has resources available to help our listeners understand more, but I'd like to visit for a few moments the history of income tax. It's quite an interesting history, and there are lessons from that history. I start with- I'll share with my listeners, my personal observation, and that is that the founders delivered to us a Constitution in 1787 with a Bill of Rights, even though the Bill of Rights wasn't enacted until 1791, if I'm not mistaken. But the Bill of Rights, which was an amendment to the Constitution, it really wasn't quite amendments as we understand the word, because it was generally understood in the ratifying conventions, certainly in New York and certainly in Virginia and in other states, colonies in the New England that they would not vote to ratify the constitution without a Bill of Rights. So, the Bill of Rights was an add-on, but not quite an amendment. So, I'm going to refer to amendments to the constitution. I exclude the Bill of Rights, and I'll also exclude the Civil War amendments which, in another way of speaking, that was the unfinished business of the founders. The founders knew inevitably there would be something like the civil rights amendments, the 13th, 14th, or 15th amendment. They just concluded, when I could have discussed it on the show, that the country wasn't ready in 1787 to deal with slavery. Okay, that's the starting point.
My conclusion, almost all of the amendments, the structural amendments to the Constitution, such as the income tax as the 17th amendment, which provided for the direct election of senators contrary to the founder's wishes, and those two amendments followed each other income tax and 17th amendment, most of the amendments made the Constitution worse. That's my premise. I haven't done a math count, but that's my starting point. I'll exclude also women's suffrage as part of the Civil Rights amendment until later. That fixed a problem that had to be fixed, obviously.
But as to issues like the income tax, the income tax was expressly- not by implication, not by reading between the lines, was expressly forbidden by the founders. They feared giving the federal government the excessive power it would have if it could directly tax the people. The power to tax in the Constitution was only the power to levy a tax which was borne equally by the states so that you couldn't have a different tax rate. You had to have each state paying, in effect, the same system of taxation. That's the starting point. That worked fine. There was a temporary income tax during the Civil War. It existed for a short period of time. Then, it was promptly repealed.
The first permanent income tax in 1913 required the Constitution to be amended. The founders were so fearful, they made it unconstitutional. Not generally known that we needed the 16th amendment to the Constitution to make the income tax constitutional. So, embellish that if you would, Ashley, because I know you and your organization have commented quite a bit on that. Tell us about the early history of this, at that time, somewhat radical and very modest proposal to tax a handful of Americans to tax their income.
Ashley Varner: Yes, well, I mean, the obvious thing is our founders would be appalled to see the tax system we have today, what the IRS is doing today, the fact that the government spends so much of our money on projects that they never foresaw the government doing. To your point about the Bill of Rights, the first ten were negative rights that the government couldn't do. They were protections for the people against the overreach of the government, so many of the amendments that came after that, like you said, taking out the Civil Rights amendments. But like the 16th amendment, the 17th amendment, prohibition, they then became things that the government was encroaching upon us. The 16th amendment is a perfect example. I mean, the founders fought a revolution for less than what the IRS does to us on a regular basis. The 3% tax on tea, or maybe I don't have that percentage correctly, but amongst other things that the king was doing, we knew that we did not want a government who could demand so much money from us without giving us the proper representation for how they were spending that money.
They also understood that a progressive tax inevitably leads to a war by the poor against the rich. That's how they pit our two groups against one another. It's fueled by politicians who claim that successful people didn't build that, or they don't pay their fair share and that we should tax the rich. I am glad that you brought up the fact that we actually repealed the first income tax after the Civil War was over, but the Supreme Court actually struck down the second income tax that was established. They struck it down in 1895 because they said that it needed to be a tax that was equally borne by the people. So, to your point, from 1895 when the Supreme Court struck down the second federal income tax to 1913, I guess they had to come up with different percentages. But that first income tax levied a 1% tax on personal income greater than 3%.
At first- I have some notes here to help me get it right, but one of the people who was discussing the income tax said, "Well, I'm okay with passing a tax that is above $4,000 income because nobody here has a $4,000 income." That's where it began in the very early days of our politicians discussing an income tax because they saw it starting to encroach even then. "Well, nobody here is going to have to pay for that. So, we'll let the upper income; upper echelon people carry the heavier burden."
It only took one generation to hike the taxes sky high, and I'm sure you have it here, but under President Roosevelt, he hiked the income tax to 79% of your income and then later to 99%. He wanted to go after a 99% income tax. That is insane. It never would have passed muster with our founders.
Bob Zadek: Of course, the tax the rich concept, it has the clear implication that there's something inherently improper about the very concept. Elizabeth Warren and AOC abhorred the very concept that there are- and Bernie Sanders, of course, that there are rich people, and the income tax is the tool by which people who are successful get punished. I invite the audience, if you want to go on a flight of fancy, just imagine what would the country be like without an income tax. Remember, our country had a period of great economic growth. Growth is a word that's abhorred these days. It's not, in eyes of many people, a legitimate goal in itself, mere economic growth. But of course, economic growth gives us a better standard of living, a healthier standard of living, a happier standard of living, and the like, of course. Somebody has to invent the stuff that makes our life better, and that's growth.
But we never enjoyed, except perhaps in a period of time after World War II, such sustained economic growth as the period after the Civil War and until the income tax, and in the first few years after we had an income tax. There was sustained growth. Somehow, this country managed to enjoy economic growth, which means a better standard of living, longer life expectancy, all that comes with it without an income tax. So, it's not an absurdity to imagine a world without an income tax, without punishing the activity of earning money. Because remember the core principle of taxation, the more you tax something, the less you have of it. Therefore, the more that you tax income, the less income that's produced. Well, who suffers? Where does the money come to hire people? It comes out of earnings, comes out of income. Do we want a life without income and therefore without growth? The message of an income tax is, "Let's tax the activity of earning money." It's like less tax breathing and make people cut their breathing in half and we'll have more money. That's the concept of income taxation.
So, here we are with the Biden administration, allocating 80 plus billion dollars to the Internal Revenue Service. The reason I asked Ashley to join us for this hour is because the Internal Revenue Service is special in a bad way, in my opinion. What makes it special? It is the only federal agency that has its goal, taking property from people who did nothing wrong. It's the only agency that does that. We are allocating huge amounts of our treasure to an agency whose sole purpose is to take away property lawfully obtained by citizens who broke no law. Of course, we have other agencies. We have law enforcement agencies who punish people and protect us from somebody else doing us harm or our property. But somebody else earning money is not a threat to me. And yet, we are giving money to the one agency that has as its purpose taking property from people who did nothing wrong.
I think that's what the founders feared the most. That's the tax collector, that's what it does. There are plenty of other taxes where the tax is paid voluntarily. Sales tax, when I go to a restaurant and I get the check and there's a little number at the bottom for sales tax, doesn't make me resent the restaurant. It doesn't make me wish I hadn't eaten there. I understand, I make a decision to buy a meal or a car, and I make a decision knowing full well there's a tax for doing that. It's an excise tax. It's a tax on activity. You don't want to pay the tax? Don't do the activity. I think, Ashley, the evil- evil is not too strong a word, of an income tax is it's a tax that takes property away from people who did nothing wrong other than crash into a piece of legislation whose only purpose is to take property.
Ashley Varner: Well, once again, you're right, Bob. I also want to say to add insult to injury, the taxes that have to be raised in order to pay for those new 87,000 IRS agents are going to be used as political speech when they are funneled to government employee unions. It's going to benefit one party because the IRS Union is part of the Department of Treasury Union, and it gives 100% of its donations in the last several cycles to the Democrat Party. The Democrats are not necessarily known for wanting to give tax breaks or lower taxes, but they also want to grow government in order to grow government employees, to grow their union coffers that then benefit their campaigns. It's again the vicious cycle.
I'm just very fond of reminding everyone within my listening voice, this is your money. This is your money, Bob. This is my money. This is everyone in your audience's money because the government does not create money. They may print money, but they don't actually create money that is gained, that is created by you and me. When they spend millions and billions of dollars of our tax dollars, they're taking it out of our mouths and spending it eventually for their own political purposes whether or not we agree with that political speech.
Bob Zadek: This is in effect- and the Supreme Court has spoken on this. This is in effect taxpayers in our country are, in effect, forced to give money, albeit indirectly, so that another organization can promote a political system that we oppose. Imagine if a statute was passed that required every American to give $200 to the Democratic Party or Republican Party. And this legislation, Ashley, as you have pointed out, in effect does that. There's no question that that's exactly what this legislation does.
Ashley Varner: You're right, Bob. That's why the Freedom Foundation is so passionate about helping people understand. If you work for the government and you don't want to pay these union dues, which amounts to political speech in your name with your paycheck, you don't have to pay it. The Supreme Court weighed in 2018 and said, "Union dues are political speech. Public sector employees should not be compelled to fund union activity against their will." But so many people don't know that because the unions certainly aren't going to tell them. So, the Freedom Foundation has taken it upon ourselves to try to reach out to every government employee in the country.
To your point about Democrat or Republican, we hear from Democrats all the time who may be union members. They tell us, "I may support Planned Parenthood, I may support the ACLU. But why don't I get to choose how much of my money to give to that organization rather than having the union take it out of my paycheck before I even get to see it and then give it to the organization?"
So, it really does run across the political gamut. We just have people, in times of inflation, they want to keep more of their dollars so that they can buy more groceries and put more gas in their car, or they're not political at all and they just don't care or don't want to pay attention, so they don't want their money to go to it. Or they might even be on the left side of the aisle but they say, "Meh, I'd rather decide how much to write on that check."
Bob Zadek: The case that Ashley referred to in 2018, most of my listeners will know this, the Janus case. The Janus case was decided by the Supreme Court in 2018, which held that only with respect to public service unions, think Teachers' Unions, public service unions, the union members who are required by the employer through legislation to join the unions as a condition of employment. That means it's the government acting. The government therefore was prohibited under Janus to compel union members to pay dues to the extent that those dues support political speech they don't oppose.
Those of you who really follow the Supreme Court will remember the Janus case followed a very interesting case called Friedrichs, Rebecca Friedrichs. Rebecca was on my show in about 2016 with her lawyer.
She was about to go to the Supreme Court. She was a teacher in Southern California, and she brought the first case. It was quite interesting because she brought a case on the same principle, compelled speech, and it was about to go to the Supreme Court. You may recall that the Supreme Court heard an argument. It was very clear that the Supreme Court was going to decide 5-4, Scalia was on the Court, against the union. Scalia, as you recall, died in an accident visiting in Texas. Therefore, the Supreme Court was then tied 4-4 on the Friedrich case. The case was then sent back down because the Supreme Court couldn't decide. So, the Janus case, a very interesting story, was then brought up by those people who opposed compelled speech. The Janus case was kind of Friedrichs II, and that held, as Ashley said, 5-4 that you could not compel public service workers. This doesn't apply to the private sector, at least not yet, but it does apply to public service worker unions. Now, was Freedom Foundation involved at all in the Janus case directly?
Ashley Varner: We were not. It was Mark Janus. He was a public employee out of Illinois. So, we were not involved with Mark. We have worked with him since then, but since June 2018, people kind of anticipated that this was the way the Court was going to go. So, we had a national campaign ready to go, and we started the Freedom Foundation. freedomfoundation.com started in Washington state and then we have since moved into Oregon and then California and we’ve since moved across the country. But since Janus in 2018, we've helped 132,000 people leave their unions, stop paying dues, and that has cost the unions $267 million that the government employees, taxpayer-funded employees, get to keep in their own pockets.
Bob Zadek: You go, Freedom Foundation, you go. Thank you for that well-deserved plug on the Freedom Foundation. As we wind down, one postscript on the Biden legislation that allocates $80 billion in legislation that has been signed. The Republicans, if they can get their act together, a big if, the Republicans in the House, which have control over the purse, do have the power. Whether they exercise it intelligently or not remains to be seen but they have the power since they can appropriate the money that's been budgeted for the IRS, and they can direct the IRS on how to spend and how not to spend the $80 billion. So, there is hope even though the legislation has already been enacted.
By the way, as to the great majority of our listeners who make less than $400,000 a year, if you think you're home free, remember that during the Biden administration, there was another underreported bit of legislation that requires anybody being paid more than $600 a year through cash apps such as Venmo now must report and Venmo must report. Can you imagine how many people out there don't get $600 a year on Venmo? Everybody will have to report their transactions to the IRS and Venmo will report.
Do you think the IRS might be using those reports to assess taxes against those people? If the answer is a reluctant yes, which segment of the population, the under $400,000 crowd or the over $400,000 crowd is more likely than not to be paid through Venmo? I doubt you mentioned Warren Buffett, that Warren Buffett gets substantial income through his Venmo account, just as I doubt you mentioned Donald Trump, I don't know about him so much, but he probably doesn't either. So, here we have yet another piece of legislation that is 100% targeted toward those people least able to protect themselves.
Ashley, you at the Freedom Foundation are truly doing God's work in trying to protect us from the leviathan of the Internal Revenue Service. How can our audience follow the work of Freedom Foundation, can support you, can become active, and can volunteer to work for you for free because you're doing such important work?
Ashley Varner: Well, thank you so much, Bob. This has been a true pleasure. freedomfoundation.com, we've got a donate page there at the top if you'd like to help us. We have over 80 cases against labor unions right now that won't let people stop deducting dues. And we do that for free. We do not charge our clients. 80 cases against unions get pretty expensive. So, if you wanted to donate to that cause, freedomfoundation.com. We have an email. Sign up for an email, get our weekly updates so that what we're doing. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. If you're a government employee, optouttoday.com. It's an interactive map. You click on your state, you click on your union. It self-populates a letter that you send to your union saying, "I want to opt-out of dues. I don't want to be a member anymore." We will help follow up with you on that, free of charge again.
Bob Zadek: Thank you so much, Ashley Varner of the Freedom Foundation, for sharing your thoughts with us on this really ugly portion of the Inflation Reduction Act, inaptly named, of course. Thank you so much for the work of the Freedom Foundation for helping us level the playing field. Thank you so much. Especially, thank you to my listeners for giving us an hour of your very valuable time. We hope you have found it worthwhile.
Ashley Varner: Thank you.