You’ve probably noted the controversy surrounding the Internal Revenue Service’s apparent “profiling” of groups aligned with the Tea Party. A discussion on the issue broke out here at S&R this week, with our colleague Sid Bonesparkle suggesting on our internal e-mail forum that perhaps such action, even if it only involved a couple of “rogue” agents, might not be entirely unwarranted.
As is often the case, not everyone agreed with Dr. Sid. In the interest of fostering some debate on the larger issues surrounding the case, we have decided to share out internal discussion with our readers as part of our ongoing Scrogues Converse series.
Dr. Sid Bonesparkle
First, a caveat or two. I’m not a huge fan of the IRS. In general large bureaucracies with minimal oversight make me nervous. This isn’t an anti-taxation thing, it isn’t an anti-government thing, and I can’t say that I’ve ever had any personal issues with them. Call it philosophical.
I’m also not a huge fan of government employees usurping extralegal powers for themselves, although I recognize that expansionism is as natural to a bureaucracy as sucking eggs is to a weasel.
All of which is to say that I am not endorsing or advocating roguery by individuals working within the IRS or any other government agency.
That said, I’m a lot less bothered by these charges than everybody else seems to be.
I know there’s no way that Obama can use this messaging, but I do think there’s a fair question here: Aren’t law enforcement officials well advised to keep a close eye on those who advocate positions that aren’t in line with the law?
- If you insist on your right to stockpile military grade weapons and you advocate overthrowing the government, aren’t the FBI and ATF justified in surveilling you?
- I’m guessing all kinds of agencies, from local police up through the Justice Dept., pay attention to those who want to legalize drugs.
- If you’re the cops and you find out that the newly elected president of NAMBLA lives in your town, you might be interested in that.
- What about eco-terrorists? You don’t think the law in the vicinity of pipeline development is interested in them?
And so on. The Tea Party’s stated raison d’etre is all about taxation. Now, their propaganda hacks might shape the rhetoric in a way that suggests the civic side of the word “reform,” but if you’ve been paying attention for the past few years (and by “few” I mean 35) you know that in their view ALL taxes are evil. We see corps making billions and paying no taxes. We see the hyper-wealthy hiding their money offshore. We see Tea Party politicians willing to shut down the government – especially the parts that administer those nasty social programs – in order to further trim taxes on their rich donors.
All of which is to say that the IRS might be justified in keeping a close eye on certain groups, especially when those groups are organizing under 501(c)(4) statutes. Tell me, does this sound like the Tea Party groups with which you’re familiar?
Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.
Despite pretending to be a grassroots movement of concerned citizens, we now know that the Tea Party is nothing of the sort. It was from the start an astroturf put-up job funded by the billionaire Koch brothers that emerged from decades of deep planning by the tobacco industry, and if you’re going to allow it to organize and operate under the 501(c)(4) umbrella you might as well let the Democratic Party and Exxon organize as charitable non-profits.
In other words, the groups “targeted” by the IRS were and are and always will be, in their DNA, dedicated to undermining our revenue system. This doesn’t make them criminals automatically – certainly one can work to change laws that one disagrees with – but when your methods are overtly built around gaming the system, it’s not my fault if I’m wary of you. If you don’t want to be treated like a sneaky egg-sucking weasel, then don’t sneak around the henhouse when you think I’m not looking.
This is the reason I have been skeptical of this particular outcry. The Parties (intentionally capitalized) questioned are political in nature, back candidates, and are anti-tax. Where’s the “social welfare” aspect? It’s in our collective best interests to do away with all taxes? I don’t think so.
Talk about being able to identify a duck from its characteristics.
Oh, but in this case it’s not a duck because it wants to be a cow.
I’m nervous about this one. We have enough problems controlling the FBI, et al. Not sure we want to encourage political activism by other groups as well. Understand what is really happening. The IRS is in part doing its job, but it’s also doing a Ruby Ridge/Waco, squashing opposition to government per se. The desire to protect the institution is nonpartisan.
I personally think this is really bad for Obama. It’s the Manny Ramirez thing. If he fakes an injury, he’s just Manny being Manny. If anyone else does it, they’re assholes. Obama has the narrative going. Yeah, Karl Rove is a liar, but it’s just Karl being Karl. Yes, Tom DeLay rigged elections, but it’s just Tom being Tom. Yes, Mark Sanford is an idiot, but he’s better than a woman librul. Wait, I lost the thread on that last one.
Anyway, this doesn’t fit with Obama’s narrative, which is exactly opposite: “I’m above partisanship, trying to do the right thing. Those guys are the one politicizing everything.” Of course, as Alex said in her post the other day, Boehner’s outrage is feigned because he’s party to worse. But being no worse than Boehner is not what Obama promised us. (It’s what Bill Clinton promised us, but not Obama.)
Well, this is an interesting question. Were these IRS agents targeting suspicious anti-IRS groups because they were suspicious or because they were anti-IRS? No way to know that, and I’m not sure it matters. The issue for me is whether the groups were acting legally or not. If their actions are structured so as to subvert not only the law as written, but the clear intent of the statute, then the IRS is probably not out of line in having a look, right?
Whoa – this isn’t Waco or Ruby Ridge. Yes, Nixon did use the IRS as a blunt instrument. And yes, it can be heavy handed on its own. But if the IRS were going after people who espouse anti-government rhetoric, they’d have to target a large sector of the GOP and THAT ISN’T HAPPENING or their reaction would be nukular compared to this.
Not sure on that. Partial discrimination is still discrimination. If there’s a documented history of teabaggers faking not-for-profit, then it should be a national policy. If not, it was discrimination. My argument is it might not be polical but rather the natural antipathy of those inside the institution for those who criticize of it.
I don’t personally care about the Obama PR angle at all. He’s working hard to cement his legacy as “not quite as bad as Bush was, except for all those civil rights issues.” Really, my only concern is whether the agency is operating more or less efficaciously. Whether you like the point Bonesparkle is raising or not, Cat is dead on the money. She even understates the case a bit, I think.
Didn’t the GAO say that there’s no evidence that there was targeting? Caveat for protecting your own and whatnot.
In any case, while people spin over the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, we’re not paying close enough attention to far more worrying actions by the administration, like tapping the AP’s phones for two months because it was mad at journalists for doing their jobs. And now we have the President and AG saying they didn’t know it was happening. Right, that was Reagan’s favorite trick and it’s almost certainly true only in the sense that there’s no paper trail.
Nonetheless, it’s comical that when shit like this happens to the Right it’s a national travesty. Seems to me that the Feds have been harassing the Left for a good many decades. To the best of my knowledge the only thing the CIA’s ever infiltrated was the American Left.
Actually I think they’ve done a good job getting the patriots. Again, they don’t mind anti-people (Klan, abortion clinic bombers) but they hate anti-government.
I’d love it if we could develop some context around how various factions use the government as a hatchet against those they don’t like. Let’s see here. ACORN. Shirley Sherrod. Oh, and this. Hmmm. What else?
Meanwhile, Obama trips all over himself apologizing for this horrific breach of IRS trust. How dare they profile groups that are working the letter of the law and ignoring the hell out of its intent.
I giggle every time I see that word “profiling,” by the way. If a convicted pedophile applied for a license to open a day care center, would it be wrong to “profile” him?