Here’s What the Rich Get When They Buy Themselves a Congress


A few days ago I posted a tweet from Catherine Rampell about Donald Trump’s proposal to slash the IRS budget, even though that would mean less enforcement and fewer audits, thus costing the government a lot of money. Today Rampell is back with raw data on this, which I’ve combined into one gloriously ugly chart. But there’s a reason to make it so ugly. Can you figure it out?

You’re too smart for me, aren’t you? Or did my dotted line at 2011 give the game away? As you can see, IRS enforcement—and its audit rate—went up toward the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama administration. Then Republicans won a landslide victory in the 2010 midterms and took over Congress in 2011.

That was the high point of IRS efficiency. It’s been straight downhill ever since. Enforcement is down, corporate audits are down, and audits of the rich are down. And why not? Corporations and the rich bought themselves a shiny new Congress in 2010, so why shouldn’t they get their money’s worth?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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