Don’t politicize the IRS, end it

According to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Danny Werfel, the agency’s internal investigation of recent scandals has “not found evidence of intentional wrongdoing by IRS personnel, or involvement in these matters by anyone outside of the IRS.”

This is meant to allay concerns that the IRS subjected conservatives and Tea Party groups to audits and inappropriate questioning out of political motivations, or under orders from the White House.

As part of Werfel’s 30-day progress report on the IRS’ scrutiny of itself, much of which is hidden from taxpayers, he suggests it was not only limited-government and right-of-center outfits that received zealous inquiries when applying for tax-exempt status. Presumably, this is submitted as exonerating evidence: The IRS may be officious, but it is unimpeachably even-handed.

One is reminded of America’s second-most detestable federal outfit: the Transportation Security Administration.

In the autumn of 2010, when the TSA ramped up its now-ubiquitous and grotesque security protocols at U.S. airports, including “enhanced pat-downs,” some Americans reacted with justifiable fury. And, for a while, the media and the agency itself responded to citizens’ objections.

Every time a shaky video would emerge of some crying toddler being forced to allow a blue-fingered government stooge to prod the disconsolate tot as a condition of boarding a plane to Disney World, the TSA would conduct an internal investigation. Invariably, they would find that proper policy had been followed.

And that’s the problem: the policy.

If your policy is to violate the rights and dignity of innocent people in the name of protecting their freedom, then saying you followed that policy correctly is no vindication.

The same is true of the IRS. Perhaps it targeted conservatives on orders from the White House and perhaps it did not. The point is, the IRS should not be overseeing political speech in the first place. The policy, not the politics, is the problem.

Freedom of speech is meant to be a protection against government. To have government regulate it, particularly through its power of taxation, contravenes that purpose.

And a long-term solution to the harassment of citizens seeking to exercise their God-given rights is not to be found through internal investigations, or congressional inquiries, or even a special prosecutor. It matters little if Lois Lerner goes to jail and, even if every accusation of IRS meddling in the 2012 election is true, there will be no do-over and Mitt Romney will not be installed as president.