It is not so much whether or when or why the IRS abused its authority by targeting Tea Party and conservative groups. We know by now the answers are: of course, over a period of year, and to aid the re-election of President Obama.
Going forward, the most important question is: How can we prevent it from happening again? The answer may be more complicated than we think.
First, the IRS as a tax collecting entity is not going the way of the Dodo bird. Until you find 60 Mike Lees (R-UT) in the U.S. Senate and a President willing to work to repeal the 16th Amendment, the IRS is here to stay. So the first step is to take the IRS out of the resident’s political hands – specifically the IRS Commissioner appointment.
The evidence proves the IRS was used as an abusive political tool to hobble or destroy as many organizations as possible that opposed President Obama’s agenda. The partisan media may continue to suppress this fact, but the denial that it happened at all is growing more absurd by the day.
Journalists raised to never trust anyone over the age of 30 now seem to accept any excuse – no matter how implausible – to explain away the scandal.
Once the problem came to light, the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division claimed to have “lost” her emails. At the same time, the IRS was known to sanction individuals for not maintaining seven years of receipts. Would the New York Times have accepted this excuse from the Koch Brothers?
Perhaps a better example is the media’s reaction to abuses by the Nixon administration and the ample evidence it abused the IRS in a similar way. One word: Firestorm.
Still, what the IRS did to Tea Party organizations is tyranny personified and it cannot be ignored or forgiven, because it can happen to anyone who opposes the policies of the powerful.
What if you oppose same-sex marriage and are outspoken about it? Or oppose military intervention overseas? What makes you believe you are more inoculated than a Tea Party entity?
This controversy presents us with an opportunity to remove the Internal Revenue Service from political influence altogether. Anyone who respects the separation of powers, regardless of whether they are conservative, liberal, moderate, libertarian or anything else, ought to see the wisdom in separating IRS enforcement and presidential appointments.
Appointments by the president are, by and large, intended to mirror his political decisions. The IRS, however, is different. Because of its massive power and essentially unlimited authority, it must be more than fair – it must be 100 percent non-political. Even if this is unattainable, every attempt must be made.
If we continue to allow Commissioners of the IRS to be political appointments, we cannot be surprised when they turn out to be cogs in a political machine. We need common sense ideas to change this right now.
Here is one suggestion: The governors of states within each economic region identified by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, of which there are eight, could confer and identify nominees, with three eventually being agreed upon by a committee of governors, with one governor from each economic region present. Those three nominees would go in front of the Senate. Whichever nominee was chosen would be responsible for submitting annual reports to the group of governors on the agency’s various successes and failures.
The best feature of this change is that it does not require constitutional amendments nor does it require a massive change in public opinion. Right now, the will to remove partisanship from the appointment of the IRS Commissioner is strong and only requires a change in the U.S. Code (Specifically: 26 U.S. Code § 7803).
There are surely other reform ideas that could be brought forth – let a hundred proposals bloom. But let them all be motivated by the unifying principle that the present politically tainted IRS is irretrievably broken, must be restrained and cannot be trusted.
What better way to test the willingness of today’s divided Washington to unite for the sake of the public interest?