IRS promotes bipartisanship?

The IRS does not initiate rogue policies without some inspiration. Let's see who could have inspired them. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2013 ― Not since August 1945 has there been so much bipartisanship in our nation’s capital, with only one major holdout.

The IRS has been caught in politically-motivated overreach, and enough people are scared and angry about it that something might get done, this time. As the story continues to spread and inquiries pour into the offices of Congress, both parties seem interested in getting to the core questions:

Who gave the specific instructions to target “liberty,” “freedom,” “tax,” “Tea Party,” “Constitution,” and “patriot” groups?


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How did that person get the idea that it should become policy?

* How much did the President know, and when did he know it?


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President Obama joked about dropping the IRS hammer on his opponents in a 2009 commencement speech at Arizona State University. Perhaps he thought further about what a great idea that would be.

It’s unlikely that Obama ever directly told anyone at the IRS or Treasury, “Go and destroy, frustrate, and harass to the best of your ability, any groups which may oppose me.” It’s also unlikely that anyone at the IRS would simply cook up such a policy without thinking that higher-ups would approve.

In fact, it’s inconceivable that a career bureaucrat would initiate any policy so wide in scope and so potentially explosive without a direct order, whether that took the form of a threat, or of a promise of cover and reward. Bureaucrats like the IRS chief serve at the pleasure of the President, but to replace an agency head in a capricious-looking way would certainly raise eyebrows. Too many eyebrows. Besides, a scorned IRS chief might blow a loud whistle. This may still happen, if the present coverup fails.

It’s also unlikely that any senator or representative, no matter how sinister, would attempt to initiate such a policy. There’s always someone else in opposition.

Maybe a bureaucrat did it? No.

First, it’s hard work to initiate a new policy, and everyone (including bureaucrats) is averse to work. Second and worse, initiating policy changes is a great way to get noticed, and that’s career suicide for anyone but a high-level bureaucrat. But a high-level bureaucrat who did initiate a policy change would certainly want credit for it, once it proved effective (as this one was). And a high-level bureaucrat might not take the fall for the team, particularly if the head of the team is a lame duck.

So, the policy did not come from the bureaucracy; the IRS itself, hated as it is, is innocent of the policy. They only follow orders … like all those guys said at Nuremburg.

Anyway, that leaves executive orders. Could admitted tax cheat and then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner have decided that he should just go do this? He obviously had the power of the President behind him. Still, he didn’t need to light the fuse on a potential scandal, no matter how grateful he may have been for his position. Besides, Obama’s popularity at the time this policy started was sky-high; he didn’t need such a program; doing something like would have required calculation worthy of a master politician.

So, let’s look at Treasury’s boss. Oh, he’s in the White House. What does the president have to say? He says such conduct (if it actually happened) is “outrageous, and there is no place for it. They have to be held fully accountable.” The Inspector General is now looking into it.

Of course, he won’t comment on it as long as his Inspector General is looking into it. “We’ll wait and see what exactly all the facts are.” Like Benghazi, we’ll wait … and wait … and then we’ll be told, “That happened a long time ago.”

The president doesn’t want anything said until ALL the facts are known, and unless someone at the IRS or Treasury won’t allow himself or herself to get thrown under this bus, we’ll never know all the facts.

Somehow, though, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) both appear shocked ― shocked! ― that such a thing could happen. They’ve both seen a political issue where they are blameless, and where they can stand, side by side, for The American Way. Hey, we’ll take ‘em where we can get ‘em.

The president said soon after his first election, “If there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation, then I want to make sure there are consequences to that.”

Mr. President, here and for once, you and I agree.


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Tim Kern

Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, and discovered that understanding life is easy; it’s recognizing reality that takes practice. He holds a music degree, and later earned an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He has lived across the US, and now makes his home in Anderson, Indiana.

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