Republicans should target the IRS and the Tax Code

IRS CaponeFormer Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall stated that, “The power to tax involves the power to destroy”.  This is true enough, but it also involves the power to control.

In fact, control is the number one feature of our tax code, at least in terms of how much of our behavior it controls.  This is as opposed to how efficiently it raises revenue while doing the least possible damage to the economy and personal liberty.

Like a hydra, it sits at the center of American life with tentacles that reach into our finances, our politics and – coming soon – our health care.

It is the great enabler of big government, and it makes potential criminals out of everyday Americans who can’t possibly keep up with its over four million words and fifty-five thousand pages of rules and regulations.  A code so complicated that it takes a collective 6.1 billion hours to comply with each year, the equivalent of over three million full-time employees and about 170 billion dollars in costs to the economy.

Generally speaking, it is said that if you want less of something, you tax it, and if you want more of something, you subsidize it.  With that in mind, our tax code is a veritable road map to what our betters want more and less of.

We tax success, whether in the form of income, capital gains and essentially savings as well.  We tax free speech with regulations and the time and resources necessary to comply with them.  And of course we subsidize unemployment, poverty, poorly performing government monopoly schools and failing businesses.  Trillions later, how’s that been working out for us?

Its primary beneficiaries are accountants, lobbyists, lawyers and the businesses that get the loopholes they want, and the politicians who get contributions for keeping the loopholes in place. In other words, the complexity invites corruption.

Of course such a large, complicated tax code gives rise to a large agency to administer it.  And since it is a virtual certainty that everybody is violating some element of it at some time, it becomes a matter of bureaucratic discretion as to whether you’re targeted for enforcement or not.

The more the agency has to regulate, the more it “needs to know” about those it regulates: like your finances, the content of your prayers, your political beliefs, what type of health insurance you have, etc. – all information that can be exploited and shared with others who have no business seeing it.  Just ask the Tea Party supporters.

Just this week a Treasury Inspector General’s report revealed that confidential tax records of some political candidates and donors were “improperly” reviewed by the IRS, and that they “targeted for audit candidates for political office”, and that there was “unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records of political donors or candidates”.

But these scandals are mere symptoms of the problem that is our incomprehensible, inefficient, corruption-inducing tax code.  All of which presents an opportunity to Republicans, and they should use it to “go big”.

Call for the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS abuse scandals.  Pass a resolution in the House every day if necessary to bring public attention and pressure Obama to make the appointment.

Eliminate the IRS role in Obamacare.  Of course that would essentially gut program financially, so Democrats would oppose it, but it would put them on the record voting to keep the IRS involved in American health care, much to the appreciation of the voting public.

Eliminate the IRS all-together and restructure government revenue collection.  We upended entire bureaucracies after 9-11, why not now?  Further, push for real civil service reform that has real punishment for political favoritism and abuse.

Reform the tax code to eliminate all deductions and lower all rates.  Start with a blank sheet of paper and design it like it was on purpose, not the result of some grotesque experiment in regulatory evolution.  It would mean easier compliance for taxpayers and less control for bureaucrats.  Ignore the howls of protest from lobbyists and adopt a “no loopholes, no exceptions” policy.

Eliminate the corporate income tax, since it is just a pass-thru to the shareholders who own corporations to begin with.  This would also have the virtue of eliminating the need to file for tax-exempt status in order to create political speech groups and get the legal protections of a corporation, (the source of the recent IRS abuse of Tea Party groups).

These are all issues that Republicans can use to beat Democrats over the head from here to 2016.  Never let a crisis go to waste, remember?

Best case, we actually improve something that desperately needs fixing.  Worst case, we put Democrats in close races next year in a really bad spot.

It’s all about preparing the ground we’re going to fight on.

A quick guide to Obama’s scandalrama

If you feel like you need a program to keep up with the rash of scandals coming out of Washington, you’re not alone.  There’s stifling of political opposition, lying to Congress, intimidation of whistle blowers, lying to the public and a healthy dose of general incompetence.

Suffice it to say that Obama has found his legacy.  He has set the new presidential speed record for achieving lame-duck status, going from inauguration to irrelevance in just four months.  With three major scandals all coming to a boil at the same time, Democrats will be distancing themselves in droves before the dust settles.

The IRS Hokey-Pokey

All of America just found out what many conservative groups have known all along – that the IRS has spent years targeting them in order to minimize how effective they can be.

New information confirms that over a course of three years the IRS singled out groups for abuse if their names or descriptions included certain keywords like “tea party”, “9-12”, “patriot”, “constitution”, “voter fraud”, “government spending”, “limited government” or “Bill of Rights”.

The IRS demanded that such groups turn over more information about their activities, their donors, their websites and social media accounts, even asking questions about the political beliefs of personnel.  Worse, at least one liberal group has admitted that the IRS sent them confidential copies of applications and other documents from thirty-one conservative groups.

Despite initial White House claims that the problem was just a bunch of low-level bureaucrats, we now know that top IRS appointees in Washington knew all about it – including IRS commissioners and chief counsels.

In the end, the abuse affected almost five-hundred conservative groups, with none receiving tax-exempt status for over twenty-seven straight months – time enough to reduce their impact on the 2012 elections.  Meanwhile, liberal groups with words like “progressive” in their titles zipped right through the approval process.

There even seems to be evidence that such government abuse extended to other agencies.  One group that was founded to fight against voter fraud found itself the target of an alphabet soup of government agencies, including a series of FBI inquiries about the group and its founders, ATF demands to see the family’s firearms, surprise audits of the founder’s gun dealership, and an OSHA audit of a family manufacturing business.

There are already calls from Congress for a special prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation, and once such a process gets started it can lead pretty much anywhere.  Just ask Bill Clinton.

The Benghazi Shuffle

Despite months of disinterest by the press, the Obama administration is facing serious questions and a probable congressional select committee over how it dealt with the September 11th attacks on our consulate in Benghazi.

There are three key elements to the scandal:

First, why did our State Department ignore repeated requests for more security from our diplomatic personnel in a place that intelligence agencies had reported as being frequented by terrorists?

Second, when our people were under attack, why didn’t our government begin moving Heaven and earth to help them?  The White House claims there wasn’t time, as it would have taken too long to respond.  But since they didn’t know “when” it would be over, why weren’t assets put in motion and kept in motion until it was?

Third, in the immediate aftermath why did the administration insist that this was just a violent movie review instead of a terrorist attack?  Who whitewashed the official story of any references to terrorists, and why?  (OK, you probably know the answer to that one, but they’ll never admit it.)

The biggest loser in this one is going to be Hillary.  The odds that she will now actually have to fight for the 2016 nomination are increasing by the day.

The Telephone (records) Blues

This is the most recent and, for the press, the most creepy of the scandals.

The Justice Department admitted this week that it grabbed two months worth of phone records for over twenty phone lines used by the Associated Press in the Capitol Building, in addition to the personal phone records of at least five reporters in the process of investigating who leaked a story about a potential terrorist attack back in 2011.

Of course subpoenaing phone records is nothing new, but there are rules and procedures to follow which were ignored, plus two months worth is a rather wide net to cast.  What future sources and whistle blowers are going to be confident that their anonymity will be protected now?  Will they have to return to the days of trench coats and dark parking garages in order to avoid the prying eyes of Big Brother?

This scandal probably has shorter legs than the others, but it has burned a lot of goodwill in what has otherwise been Obama’s steno pool.  Goodwill he will probably need when it comes to how they cover the other scandals.

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The danger for Democrats is that Americans will note that these abuses of government power come courtesy of the same people who keep asking us to trust bigger and bigger government with more and more influence over our lives.