Friday, December 8, 2023

Tax Notes Apologizes for My Being Woke

Head in the Sand or neck on the line? - Faith Community Church Pearland

Tax Notes apologized to those who "detected language that raised pernicious stereotypes of Jews" in my recent article.  You can read the apology below the fold.  Its masterful, I gotta admit.  The article speaks for itself so I don't feel any ways obliged to defend it.  Cara Griffith must be between a rock and a hard place about that article.  She had one of the editors call me last evening to tell me that she would be apologizing.  I yelled at the poor slob.  I told him Tax Analysts was spineless.  Loudly.  I should not have but I was in my feelings.    I was ok with it until he told me they would not let me read the apology beforehand nor respond to it in Tax Notes afterwards.  I'm just now seeing it this morning and I gotta say again, its not half bad.  The premise is wrong, but we could have had a productive conversation.  Seems Tax Notes has listened to everybody except me.  But that's cool, too, because implicitly they agree the article speaks for itself and I needn't say anything else. Cara picked the right guy to deliver the news, though.  His conversation was surgical.  Quiet and lethal in its efficiency.  My daughters used to say to me with cold ruthlessness, "sorry, not sorry."  Yeah, it was like that. 

I emailed my own apology to them this morning.  For yelling and calling them spineless, I mean.  Tax Notes' superbly engineered apology essentially says "from now on, we are gonna stick to tax and leave everything else out of it." So as not to hurt feelings.   The premise is as wrong as the hope is futile, I'm afraid.  You gotta hurt feelings to talk about tax policy, trust me.  Tax law is not made, comprehended and practiced in a vacuum devoid of human triumph, suffering, or folly  It is formed, shaped and characterized by human emotion and all of our hot button issues are covered in the tax code.  This ain't math. 

Math won't answer tax questions.  Will a taxpayer get a medical expense deduction for transitioning from he or him, to she or her?  Will I offend someone's religious beliefs, if I say the deduction is illegitimately denied because of our religious sensibilities?  Some people think surgery to facilitate transitioning is entirely "cosmetic."  Which side may I take without pissing somebody off?  Can two people of the same gender claim "married filing jointly"?  "Oh, well let me get my calculator out and let's see."  May I use all my dumb donors' money to defend myself against criminal charges, including charges of stealing money from those very same dumb donors? Seriously, there is even comedy in the tax code.  Can we extend or expand the charitable contribution deduction quickly after a tsunami in Hawaii or an earthquake in California?  What do we mean, "income" and what were the founders going through when they used that term in the 16th Amendment? Are people who never have to work a day again in their lives exempt from paying taxes because appreciation is not income?  Are cash benefits paid to first responders and victims of a terror attack taxable under IRC 61?   Is military pay received in a war zone taxable to some, all, or none of the combatants?  Stick your head in the sand all you want.  You won't hurt my feelings but you won't be talking about tax law.      

darryll k. jones

A Message From Our President and CEO

For 53 years, Tax Analysts has worked to foster a free, open, and informed discussion about taxation. Our mission is to shed light on tax policy and administration through aggressive, unbiased reporting and informed commentary from leaders in the field. We pride ourselves on our fearlessness in publishing all sides of any issue in tax, even arguments that are unpopular or those with which we disagree.

Last week, however, we wandered far afield and published an article, “The Undemocratic Charitable Contribution Deduction,” that should not have appeared in Tax Notes.

To be sure, the article discussed a tax issue — how the limitation of the charitable contribution deduction to itemizers strengthens the influence of wealthy taxpayers over public charities.

But the article also dealt substantially with the war between Israel and Hamas, how it started, how it has progressed, casualties and hostages, reactions of nations around the world, and what donors to universities and other charitable institutions have done in response to the actions of those charitable institutions since the war began.

Many readers rightly questioned why we published an article that focused heavily on a hotly-contested matter of foreign policy — and an article in which some of our readers detected language that raised pernicious stereotypes of Jews — to make such a broadly applicable point about wealth and the charitable deduction. After all, we are not a foreign affairs publication, and we do not use our pages to air controversies beyond those related to taxation.

Simply put, we failed. We failed to meet our own standards to present the best tax-focused content, and we failed to be appropriately attentive to what the piece might convey to many readers.

I apologize for our lapse of judgment.

Because we are committed to transparency, we will leave the piece available to our subscribers, but with this note prepended.

On behalf of Tax Analysts and our staff, we pledge to do better in the future.

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