Monday, January 16, 2006


Junk mail and junk government

Even if you don't respect the Constitution, Jay Bookman has a good column illustrating the practical problem with the NSA approach of massive surveillance. [T]he Internal Revenue Service offers a compelling case study in what it calls its Questionable Refund Program. Under this program, computer programs and data-mining techniques are used to sift through millions of tax refund requests and financial records, using the same basic approaches employed by the National Security Agency ...It's a useful technology, but according to a new government study, [46%] of the refund requests identified as fraudulent through IRS data-mining are actually honest and clean....Under IRS policy, tax refunds identified as fraudulent are immediately frozen, sometimes permanently, based on no evidence except that their return matches the computer profile. And because those frozen refunds on average amount to 25 percent of the taxpayers' yearly income, freezing those refunds "often impose(s) a severe economic hardship" on hundreds of thousands of Americans who have done absolutely nothing wrong." All of this was obvious from anyone who receives simultaneous requests from the DNC and the RNC to become one of their "committee chairman" (i.e., give them $1000 or more). If the vaunted free market makes enough mistakes to keep your mailbox full, guess what the government is likely to end up doing. If you guessed "refuse me one of the basic human freedoms, the right to travel," you win the seegar.
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