SALT LAKE CITY, May 22 2013 — If one person could embody all that is rotten with the IRS, from its unfair targeting of those with particular political beliefs to the nonchalant manner of dealing with serious problems, it is Steven Miller.
Seemingly inoffensive, mild mannered, and as thoroughly boring as one would expect from someone with the title “acting IRS commissioner,” Miller revealed himself last week to be a villainous wretch, a bully bureaucrat of the lowest order.
Some might take umbrage with such a harsh characterization. After all, he is just a man who had some bad ideas and provided poor customer service.
But the man whom President Barack Obama asked to resign a full three weeks before he was to leave the agency represents the worst aspects of a government that is too big and has too much power over some of the most private aspects of our lives.
First, Miller appeared to be totally indifferent to the legitimate concerns of the victims of IRS misconduct.
Miller owes his career, his home, and his retirement to tax payers, yet failed to even acknowledge the depth of the problem of favoring some citizens over others based on their readings lists and contents of their prayers.
He basically said that the behavior described by members of Congress was despicable, but that the agency didn’t really engage in that behavior. Obviously inappropriate practices that were also probably illegal were brushed off as mistakes made by those just trying to be efficient.
Second, he is obviously insulated from the world of those whose lives he could ruin. Many Americans are fearful of bureaucrats, who hold power over their lives and livelihoods. Apologists for the IRS will say that only conservatives cling to such fears, as Obama did in his commencement speech in Ohio earlier this month.
But any immigrant who has had to deal with the nightmarish process of ICE, any business owner or property manager who has to battle city inspectors, or professionals at the mercy of state licensing boards for permission to practice their trade know that a bureaucrat having a bad morning can set them back weeks and months. Imagine an entire division of the IRS having bad mornings and afternoons for several months.
Third, Miller was disrespectful and indignant toward members of Congress performing oversight. He seemed put out to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee last Friday.
He is statutorily and morally accountable to Congress. Yet his indifference to the outrage of lawmakers was staggering. He was dismissive of the representatives’ legitimate concerns, and showed contempt for their questions. In one exchange with Rep. Paul Ryan, he flippantly deflected the congressman’s query by saying, “So that’s a lot of questions, sir.”
“It’s one,” replied Ryan. “How can we not conclude that you did not mislead this committee?”
Miller stood by his previous answers resolutely, but anyone with a basic grasp of the English language knows that he mislead. Twice.
Fourth, he seemed monumentally unaware of basic facts. With as much power as the IRS has, agents need to be expert in the law and policy. Yet the acting director didn’t know what was going on in his organization.
Fifth, like many guilty henchmen, he offered up the defense that he was just doing his job. The arrogance that excuses nefariousness because he is only trying his best is an affront to the sense of personal responsibility that is behind the idea that we all need to pay taxes in the first place.
Sixth, in the midst of the scandal that exposed an ideological cancer in the IRS, Miller had the gall to demand more funding to correct it! He represents a bully agency and wants more money to do it.
Obama and the Left like to talk about “the nation’s most powerful interests” when describing the roots of America’s ills. Presumably, these evil power brokers are the Frank VanderSloots of the world, wealthy citizens whom the IRS appears to have audited because they disagreed with the ruling party’s policies.
To the contrary, the IRS scandal demonstrates that the most powerful interest in the United States isn’t Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers, but the government.
The bogeymen over which Obama and his allies mocked those on the right are really there after all.
One of them is Steven Miller.
Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic Training; Tunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative.
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