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A Slight Error at the IRS
by Martin Green



John Blowden, the IRS clerk assigned to do the final proofing of next year’s tax forms, was making his final corrections. Blowden was a man in his sixties who was about to retire after once again being passed over for promotion. He looked at the figure for the standard deduction. Hmmm, he mused, what if I moved that decimal point over a few spaces? Wonder what would happen? Might be pretty funny. Somebody would catch it, of course. But what the hell, why not?


The level of competence in the federal government and all of its agencies, starting with the White House, had, as everyone knew, been going down every year for years. It was now at a new low. In the event, nobody at the IRS noticed what Blowden had done. The tax forms went out.


a line, (a short blue one)


“Gee, look at this,” said Sam Jones, looking up from the tax forms he was working on.


“What?” said his wife Mary.


“The standard deduction. Here, take a look.”


“That can’t be right. It must be a mistake.”


“Yeah, but there it is, in black and white. What can I do? I’ll have to use that figure.”


“But that means we’ll get a refund of, I can’t even imagine it. We’ll be millionaires.”


“Well, why not. We’ve been paying our taxes for years and years and we know the politicians waste most of it. If it’s there, let’s take it.”


That scene in the Jones’ household was re-enacted in households all over the country. The tax returns came in. It was all automated of course. The computers didn’t ask any questions. The refunds went out.


The President, the new acting head of the IRS (the old head, after the President had told reporters he had complete confidence in him had been fired the next day), and all of the senior White House advisors were holding an emergency meeting. The economy was booming. All of the newly minted millionaires, who’d until now had been just ordinary taxpayers, were buying up things like televisions, iPhones, appliances, new cars, vacations. The only problem was that after paying out all of those refunds there was no money left in the Treasury. The country was broke. 


The emergency meeting in the White House had just started. “Wait a minute, man,” the President was addressing the Secretary of the Treasury, “you mean we have no money?”


“Well, we’ve borrowed from some other departments, like Social Security and Defense, so we have just enough to keep the country going. But yes, essentially we’re bankrupt.”


“Bankrupt? How can I Build Back Better. How the hell did this happen?”


“We’re putting together a committee to investigate,” said the Attorney General. “It has to be diverse of course so that might take some time. We don’t want to be accused of systemic racism.”


“What about blaming what’s his name?” piped up a White House Aide. “You know, that guy with the orange hair? That’s always worked before.”


  “That’s pretty old hat,” said the Chief of Staff.   “Even CNN is only mentioning him two or three times a week. But we can keep it in mind. ”


“Wait a minute,” said the President. “You say you’ve taken money from Defense. How are the Chinese reacting?”


“Threatening to take over Taiwan again. But you know they’re always doing that. We’re keeping a close eye on them.”


“What about blaming climate change?” piped up the aide again.


“Don’t think so,” said the Chief of Staff. “We’ve already blamed it for inflation, terrorism, unemployment, supply chain hang-ups, food shortages, rap music, you name it.”


“So can we cut down on Social Security payments?”


“I don’t think so,” said the Chief of Staff. “You get those seniors all riled up and we’re in big trouble.”


“So what do we do, man?”


“First, we tax the hell out of those billionaires,” said the Treasury Secretary. “They never want to pay their fair share. Then I’m afraid there’s only one thing to do.”


a line, (a short blue one)


Sam Jones opened the packet he’d just received from the IRS. “Good grief!” he said.


“What is it?” his wife Mary said.


“A supplemental tax. And look at what the standard deduction is, zero. And these other things. Forget about being millionaires. We’re screwed, again.”


This scene was enacted in households all across the country.


a line, (a short blue one)


In a remote country that had no extradition treaty with the United States, John Blowden sat on the terrace of his villa and sipped his coffee. It’s a good thing I left after getting that big refund, he thought. And the whole mess was blamed on what’s his name, that guy with the orange hair, anyway.




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