IRS=UhOh 4 O

Posted on May 12, 2013 by

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While pockets of the internet are still fluttering over the Benghazi hearings, the larger story, for me, is the recent news that the IRS  has been targeting right-leaning groups for extra scrutiny and investigation. Apparently, groups with “patriot” or “tea-party” or “9/12” in their names were subjected to additional questioning and burdensome oversight via the agency. Evidence today suggests this started in 2011.

The case against Obama for Benghazi may be about either incompetence or moral failure, and both are abominable leadership traits. The IRS’s decision to target conservatives is something altogether different. The IRS was abusing power for narrow, cowardly, and ideological purposes. If President Obama knew and approved these decisions, and there is no evidence he did, we might be witnessing the birth of a fully fledged political scandal.

While it might be obvious, government must treat ALL Americans the same, regardless of affiliation or belief. When the IRS decided to target based on political characteristics, it entered a dark place where it pushed aside the law to punish those who, imagine the effrontery, chose to think differently.

While only marginally related, this reminds me of Huey Long, the Louisiana Kingfish, who was one of the most corrupt governors in American history. When I taught at Tulane University, one of my students told me about his family’s struggles during the Long regime. A great-uncle suffered one pernicious tactic. According to him, Long used his power to strong-arm tax assessors around the state to do his bidding. One favorite trick was to assess property at absurdly high levels so that the property tax burden would become unmanageable. This would lead to an eventual forfeiture of the property and repossession by those more friendly to the Long regime. Long forced his great-uncle, an opponent, into this process.

While Obama is doing nothing quite this extreme, agents within his administration used government’s power to punish potential enemies. This is intolerable and should be investigated until good answers are found.

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