This story is so old it is amazing it needs to be reported as news. From the Washington Post:
“The Internal Revenue Service on Friday apologized for targeting groups with ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names, confirming long-standing accusations by some conservatives that their applications for tax-exempt status were being improperly delayed and scrutinized. Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the ‘absolutely inappropriate’ actions by ‘front-line people’ were not driven by partisan motives. Rather, Lerner said, they were a misguided effort to come up with an efficient means of dealing with a flood of applications from organizations seeking tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012.”
The excuse offered by Lerner is such a palpable lie it really is the equivalent of saying “na na na na; I can do what I want and you can’t do a thing to me.” The IRS came up with a guide for choosing who to audit or delay by flagging those names. As the LA Times points out:
“Heaven knows no left-leaning organization would ever use the terms “tea party” or “patriot,” at least not without the prefix ‘non’ or ‘anti.’ So the net being cast by the IRS obviously would catch only one type of fish.”
Yes, obviously. But just as obviously, this is pretty much the IRS’s de facto historical mission, assuming the instructions aren’t actually in a classified document somewhere (in which case, it is their de jure mission). They are the people who hamper and oppress whoever the President doesn’t like, or at least anyone who opposed the establishment.
The LA Times presents a delicious comparison between this Administration and another one that also mis-used the IRS: “The revelation… is sure to draw an investigation in the House because it smacks of Nixonian intimidation tactics.” Indeed it does. But singling out Nixon to our ignorant populace is effectively an attempt to whitewash the IRS. Nixon, undeservedly, is treated as an especially reprehensible, corrupt, and/or power-hungry president. But his only real idiosyncrasy was that he got caught. Using the IRS is virtually a Presidential custom by now.
Consider this brief history in the New York Times, published in 1989.
“On many occasions, the pressure to use the agency as an instrument to curb dissent came from the White House. John F. Kennedy mobilized the I.R.S. against the right-wing, fundamentalist Christian ministers who had been so critical of his religion during his Presidential campaign and his first months in office.”
And when Nixon used the IRS against war protestors who opposed his drafting kids to go fight in Viet Nam, he was continuing policies of the Johnson Administration.
Of course, using the IRS as the President’s personal domestic assassination squad pre-dates the Cold War:
“[T]he records show that Franklin Delano Roosevelt may have set the stage for the use of the tax agency for political purposes by most subsequent Presidents. One of the most brazen instances of a political vendetta during a Presidency was the Roosevelt Administration’s attack on Andrew Mellon. No historian has been able to determine why Mellon so enraged F.D.R., but there is speculation that the New Deal President saw the millionaire who served as Republican Treasury Secretary from 1921 to 1932 – a time of Wall Street excesses followed by the Great Depression – as the symbolic enemy.”
The IRS is an ideal means of selective persecution. Over and over again its crimes are discovered and published. And yet, almost every time, the latest scandal is reported as an anomaly—as if the IRS has ever behaved in any other way. Even apart from the issue of whether or not income tax is a good thing, the IRS should be abolished as the means of collecting such taxes.
They are a basic human rights violator—an undercover means for targeting political enemies.