TEXAS, May 23, 2013 — Children have all sorts of fears: monsters under the bed, being the new kid in class, Santa Claus.
Adults have other worries: the uncertain economic situation or illness of a loved ones, for example. But the biggest boogeyman for American adults has to be the thought of having the Internal Revenue Service comb through the details of our lives. The word “audit” can make grown men tremble.
This makes the recent revelations about the IRS particularly troubling. There are allegations that the IRS has targeted conservative groups for years, gave them extra scrutiny, and asked improper questions.
This is the one of the worst scenarios a representative democracy can have: a government agency using its considerable power to suppress the voices of one segment of the population specifically to favor those in power.
Given that most of us fear the power and reach of the IRS, can you imagine how you would respond if the IRS started asking questions that sound inappropriate and maybe illegal? Do you refuse to answer? Do you turn over the information and trust the government to keep it confidential? In at least one case, that confidential information was leaked to media outlets. Do you say, “Never mind,” and meekly return to your previous life?
Many kitchen table activists would likely let the matter drop. Finding the time and energy to comply with burdensome and intrusive demands by the scariest organization in government while at the same time building the organization to support other causes seems an enormous task.
But what if you press on, you continue to organize, and grow and influence public debate but the IRS continues to move against you? In one woman’s case, the boogeyman called his friends. Not just the IRS, but other federal and even state government agencies started paying special attention to her nascent activism.
One of our highest ideals, our First Amendment, has been turned on its head. “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, …, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
We have grievances and we want to gather with our fellow citizens and tell the government to shape up. But instead of “no law” we have a system where the government calls balls and strikes on our first amendment freedoms: this speech is fair, that assembly is foul, that group of citizens is kicked out of the game entirely. What’s worse is the umpire is actually a player for the other team. We petition the government, and the government decides we aren’t playing fair because we just want to play and sends its biggest, baddest guy to scare us off the field.
What do we do now? It is evident that the IRS engaged in highly improper and probably illegal acts. Is it even possible to make this right? How do you make it right for all those people who did not participate fully in past elections? What about people who illegally had confidential information leaked to political opponents?
While it may be impossible to correct the situation for those whose rights have been violated, we can work toward a system to prevent this from happening again.
First, we must root out all those who initiated or who failed to stop this raw abuse of power. The tax payers should not pay salaries and benefits to public servants who only serve their political masters. Additionally, anyone who leaked personal confidential information should be prosecuted.
Most importantly, the government needs to be removed from a position of granting permission for certain types of speech. The IRS as a weapon of those who hold political power is dangerous to our entire system of government and to the fabric the nation. We need to reform the tax code so that the ties between the tax law and the first amendment are severed.
Someone should form a group to work toward this goal.
Who wants to put their name on the paperwork?
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