- - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Matt Drudge is correct.

Last weekend we learned that after five long years in office, among the many things the White House does not know is how and when Americans pay their taxes. Since Team Obama likes taxes so much, you might think they would understand them, but no such luck. After years of on-the-job training, they flunked tax 101.

In the United States, taxes are paid on income when earned. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls it a pay-as-you-go tax. Taxes are withheld from employees’ earnings (and other income) when they get paid. Self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) must pay estimated taxes quarterly during the tax year. All of us would love to wait until the returns are filed until we have to pay our taxes; but Uncle Sam’s need for our money is much too insatiable for that.

When Mr. Drudge tweeted that he had paid the first installment of his 2014 Obamacare tax penalty, it was because he had just made his first estimated quarterly tax payment. He figured the penalty in that amount, as the appropriate IRS form itself suggests he should do. You can find the discussion of the penalty on the form under “What’s New.” Lately, what’s new from the IRS has not been very good.

In response, a White House staffer — who actually draws his yearly salary from the estimated and withholding tax payments of people who work — called Mr. Drudge’s tweet a “flat lie” because the tax returns for 2014 are not due until 2015. He doesn’t seem to know what’s new at the IRS. But the news that the White House has no idea what the IRS is doing is not exactly new. Most ordinary Americans do know. They have to, and Mr. Drudge does, too.

The only real news here is that the White House does not know the difference between making payments and filing returns, and between employees and the self-employed. The tax applies to the 2014 tax year, and you would think they would just man up and deal with it instead of running from it like scalded dogs. Maybe they plan to try to find a way to postpone this, too, but they are running out of time.

It is hard to believe that the White House is so clueless, and that the liberal press doesn’t seem to be able to get it. There were members of the liberal press who were so eager to side with the White House that they jumped right into its humiliating display of ignorance with both left feet. Their apparent jealousy of Mr. Drudge was simply too tempting for them, so they rushed out to make fools of themselves. It was not the first time.

It was the same left-footed press that dutifully reported President Obama’s assurances that people would be able to keep their existing health care plans and doctors under Obamacare. Anyone knowledgeable about how insurance works knew that was impossible, since you cannot efficiently pool incompatible risks. They reported it anyway, though, until the stupidity of it became too obvious to ignore. The bar for this kind of thing is admittedly not very high.

As talented as Mr. Drudge apparently is, however, he may have gotten one thing wrong when he called his penalty a “Liberty Tax.” That may not be the right word for it. It really is a Stupidity Tax. It is a tax Americans have to pay for the incompetence of their government. The worse government gets, the more stupidity Americans suffer. It is probably a mistake to think that you can buy liberty by paying more in taxes.

Warren L. Dean Jr. is an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.