New York Times’ handpicked commenters love the IRS

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is currently under fire for admittedly targeting for extra scrutiny the tax-exempt nonprofit status of conservative groups, is getting a good deal of support from the members of the public deemed insightful by the staff of the New York Times.

Each of the six comments Times staff selected to feature below a Saturday piece attributing the scandal to “confusion” and “staff troubles” rationalizes the federal agency’s politically motivated witch hunt of conservative groups, which included a coordinated search for conservative activist training materials.

“Two suggestions for our dysfunctional congress: Reform and simplify tax code now! Eliminate all tax exempt status for “non-profits” orgs immediately! Too many folks are setting up sham charities and using the funds for politics…Maybe taxes could be lowered for everybody if more started paying their share,” according to an Albuquerque man named “Charles Caldwell,” whose comment was insightful enough to warrant “NYT Pick” status.


“At bottom, the real problem is not the IRS. The problem is an under funded, understaffed IRS burdened with a 4-million-word, ill-defined tax code,” said one honored commenter.

“I see this as less of a scandal for the IRS and more a part of the scandalous trend towards making sure that no government agency has enough personnel to actually do its work,” said another.

The article above which these comments were featured didn’t exactly differ in tone.

“Administering the nearly four-million-word federal tax code involves so many arcane legalities, and is so fraught with potential to ignite Washington’s partisan skirmishes or infuriate taxpayers, that much of the I.R.S. is run by lawyers,” Times reporters Nicholas Confessore, David Kocieniewski, and Michael Luo report in a piece that lightly chides the “understaffed Cincinnati outpost that was alienated from the broader I.R.S. culture and given little direction.”

The tenor of the 698 comments that did not meet Times editors’ standards for wisdom and insight is decidedly less sympathetic toward both the IRS and the article. Jim Morrison of Scottsdale blames the media for promoting “the same old story lines about incompetent and leaderless career bureaucrats every time there is a political scandal.” “The Empire strikes back,” observes New Jersey’s JosieB. Pihuamo of Philadelphia expresses amazement that observers can know about the targeting of conservatives and still conclude no malice was involved, adding: “WAKE UP PEOPLE!”

The New York Times, founded in 1851, has won 112 Pulitzer Prizes.

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