Reason Roundup

Manchin on Biden's Plan To Let IRS Snoop on Bank Transactions: 'It's Screwed Up'

Plus: RIP to political humorist Mort Sahl, a look at which households pay the largest share of sin taxes, and more....


President Joe Biden's plan to snoop on Americans' bank transactions is "likely to be gone" from the final version of the massive bill working its way through Congress, says Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.).

While speaking at an event on Tuesday, Manchin criticized the proposal to mandate that banks report all transactions of at least $600 to the IRS. Biden has pitched the idea as a way to ensure that wealthy Americans are paying their fair share in taxes, but the real goal seems to be the establishment of a financial surveillance state that can tell whether you paid taxes on your Venmo transactions.

"Do you understand how messed up that is?" Manchin said he told Biden, according to Politico. "This cannot happen. It's screwed up."

There has been some discussion among Democrats about raising the threshold from $600 to $10,000 in an attempt to get the camel's nose under the tent. As Reason's Matt Welch has pointed out, that's hardly comforting since $10,000 is what someone earning minimum wage in New York City will make in about four months.

Manchin, whose vote is crucial to Democrats' efforts to pass the Build Back Better plan through the 50-50 Senate, says he opposes the idea even with a higher reporting threshold.

Faced with the prospect of having to file a ton more paperwork with the feds, banks and businesses are also pushing back on the idea. In a letter to Biden earlier this week, 98 different trade associations representing a wide cross-section of the American economy urged the president to ditch the bank-reporting scheme. "This is a substantial expansion of the IRS's authority that, once established, is sure to expand rather than roll back," they wrote.

Given the current makeup of the Senate, Manchin is the most important Democrat to voice opposition to the idea. But it's notable that he's not alone. Rep. Charlie Crist (D–Fla.) opposes the IRS reporting plan, and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D–Va.) has said it could "jeopardize my constituents' rights to privacy without any clear tax law enforcement purpose." Sen. Jon Ossoff (D–Ga.) says he has "very serious privacy and cybersecurity concerns" about the bank-reporting rules too.

As for what will remain in the bill, well, it's pretty much anyone's guess right now.

Democratic leaders in Congress are still hoping to hold a vote on Biden's Build Back Better package before the president jets off on Monday to attend a meeting of world leaders in Rome.


Political humorist Mort Sahl, whose acerbic comedy helped pave the way for everyone from Lenny Bruce to Bill Maher, died at age 94.

From The New York Times' obituary:

His own political leanings were difficult to track. The left wanted to claim him, especially early in his career, but they couldn't quite do so. Among other things, he could be crudely sexist and, though he supported civil rights, he was acerbic in confrontation with knee-jerk liberal dogma on the subject. Over the course of his life he kept company with politicians of varying stripes, from Stevenson, Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy to Alexander Haig and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. He said he had voted for Ross Perot; he praised Ron Paul and defended Sarah Palin; he cast a skeptical eye on Barack Obama's presidency and was as scathing about Hillary Clinton as he was about Donald Trump.

"Are there any groups I haven't offended?" he was wont to ask from the stage. If nothing else he was a pure iconoclast.

"If you were the only person left on the planet, I would have to attack you," he once said. "That's my job."

Tributes to Sahl bounced around Twitter on Tuesday night:


So-called "sin taxes" like those levied on alcohol and tobacco are overwhelmingly paid by older, less educated, poorer households, a new study concludes:

We find that sin good purchases are highly concentrated with 10% of households paying more than 80% of taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. Total sin tax burdens are poorly explained by demographics (including income), but are well explained by eight household clusters defined by purchasing patterns. The two most taxed clusters comprise 8% of households, pay 68% of sin taxes, are older, less educated, and lower income. Taxes on sugary beverages broaden the tax base but add to the burdens of heavily taxed households. Efforts to increase sin taxes should consider the heavy burdens borne by few households.


• The Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel voted in favor of letting kids ages 5 to 11 get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

• Clinical trials show the vaccines to be very effective for children, though nothing can stop kids from being kids:

• Nine months before Rosa Parks' more famous protest, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She's still on probation for that "crime," though that might change this week.

• The White House might impose fines of $100 per container per day on companies responsible for the empty shipping containers clogging some ports, because that will surely help.

• Meanwhile, protectionism is contributing to a coming shortage of milk, butter, and cheese:

• Cigarette sales in the U.S. rose in 2020 after years of steady decline. It's almost like the government's war on vaping was a bad idea.

• The annual reminder: No one is wasting their drugs on your kids' Halloween candy.