Yesterday we took up the ongoing IRS scandal and the potential (probability) that it points all the way to the top. At the time I noted that if the president was involved in the directive to target “Tea Party” groups, or even knew of it without putting an end to it, then he should be removed from office … impeached. I was short on time and had to run off to work, leaving the thought rather unfinished (which means it bounced around in my head all day).
First, let me say that I’m willing to give the president some room here. The administrative branch is a rather large entity, and it is very plausible that someone in his administration, without his knowledge, took this action. If that can be demonstrated (and I think Issa is close) then heads ought to roll. Although, I will note that the Obama administration response to every problem in the administration appears to be “we didn’t know” – leading Rand Paul to quip “at no time does the Obama administration know what the Obama administration is doing.”
Ultimately, I think the debate here boils down to bad policy. Governments can’t abuse powers they don’t have. While I protest at the notion of political enemies receiving harsher treatment (which, since it’s all “relative” means that political allies were given benefits), the issue at hand here really was whether political groups should be tax-exempt. I tend to hold that this is one of many places where the government has “mother may I” power that it should not have.
“Mother may I speak about political issues?”
“No. Well, not if you want to be tax exempt. We’ll let other groups like yours be tax exempt if they don’t talk about political issues, or if they only talk about political issues in certain ways.”
It shouldn’t be this way. The government shouldn’t give some groups a monetary benefit in exercising “freedom of speech” as long as that speech is not offensive to politicians and the machine. Yet this is what happens when certain groups get tax exempt status and others don’t, purely based on the nature of their speech.
They should either all be tax exempt, or none of them should. I actually kind of like the Ted Cruz approach to all of this: abolish the IRS and repeal the income tax, replacing it with at value added tax (VAT) – a national sales tax. Sure, there are downsides of VAT, but it would get the IRS out of these political tax exempt discussions.
So, while I think the president may be in some hot water over this whole affair, it ultimately stems back to bad policy giving the government power (to abuse) that it really shouldn’t have in the first place.