Comments, Taxes, Oil

A visitor named Ron asks in one of the comment threads:

“Any commentary on the IRS giving returns instantly (say, a week), for a nominal charge just as private tax services offer? Also, since oil rhymes with spoils, who should pump the oil in post-war Mesopotamia, in your opinion? After finding out who supplied some of the weapons to Iraq, the ‘Shock’ in the ‘Shock & Awe’ slogan seems only appropriate.”

Thing is, he asks this in the comments for the entry about Athena learning to read and taunting me about her ability to do so. Ron has not done anything bad, it just never occurred to me that people would post totally random things in a comment thread. So, if you please, I’d like to make a couple of refinements to my comment thread rules:

1. Please try to be “on topic” — which is to say make sure that what you’re writing about in a comment thread is at least tangentially related to the posting with which its related, or at the very least a previous post in the thread. Wild digressions are amusing and fine, so long as the starting point can be traced back to the original post.

2. If you have a great urge to ask me a question that you’d like me to consider writing about, simply e-mail me and say something like: “Hey John, I’d really like to see you bloviate on the following question/topic/observation” — and then enter your suggestion there. I’m very open to this, since I love each and every one of you, my readers, and want you to feel I am responsive to your needs, to the extent that they involve this site (i.e., don’t be asking to borrow cash). Also, every topic you suggest is one less topic I have to think up on my own, so I win, too. So don’t be shy in asking me what I think about things. Just don’t post it in an inappropriate comment thread.

No penalties for Ron, however, since he was unaware I might have this line of thinking (totally fair, too, since I was unaware I had it until about 20 minutes ago). So to answer his questions:

1. I’m against the IRS charging anyone for a “quick refund,” since inevitably someone at the IRS would find a way to abuse it, and also it would be an excuse for the IRS not to improve their response time for “non-quick” refunds. I mean, if IRS created a revenue center out of “quick returns,” eventually some go-getter at the IRS (inasmuch as such an organization would have one) would figure out that they could increase revenues by delaying all other refunds to such an extent that people would feel they have to sign up for the “quick refund” to get their refund at all. This seems like a bad idea.

Incidentally, I’m pretty much against “instant refunds” from tax preparers and others as well — what you’re essentially doing is receiving a high-interest loan for the dubious privilege of getting your own money in your hot little hands a couple of weeks early. Ideally, you shouldn’t be getting a return anyway, since any return you have means that you’re allowing the US government to take money you don’t owe it and use it interest-free until it decides to give it back to you (yes, I sound like a conservative ogre here, but, damn it, they’re right about this). But if you are getting a return, don’t you want to get all of your money back? Exercise a little patience, for God’s sake, and wait a couple extra weeks.

2. As to who should pump oil in Iraq, in the short run (say, the next 2-5 years) I think it’s pretty clear we’ll be doing it, and in the long run, it should be pretty clear that the government of Iraq should be able to award the oil contracts to whomever it pleases. That’s the exciting thing about having one’s own government — it does what it wants (hopefully, although clearly not always in the case of this region, backed by its people).

I think what you may be asking here is if France and Russia, who currently have a number of pumping rights in Iraq, should be allowed to continue to have those rights. I feel reasonably confident we’ll find some way to screw France out of theirs, since as a nation we have it in for France at the moment, and we’ll no doubt want to give them an object lesson in the price of messing with our plans. Russia I suspect we’ll allow to keep pumping, because there’s more of a long-term value in keeping Russia on an even keel, and anyway, it’s not exactly an “ally” in the same manner as we have expected France to be, so a little backdoor dealing with Saddam (and front-door opposition to our plans) isn’t going to be held against them in the same way.

I don’t know that Germany has any oil interests in Iraq, but I would expect that we’d deal with them in a more conciliatory fashion than with France, who will be singled out for the pummeling because it’s easier to thump on one country than two or three, and once everyone else realizes our government only means to ream France, they’ll probably get in line and look they other way. Fear will keep the local systems in line! Fear of this battle station!

Yes, it’ll all be very realpolitik and being such, there’s a good possibility that one day it’ll rise up and just bite us in the ass. But isn’t that the fun of being alive.