David Harsanyi / May 16, 2013

Get the IRS Out of Speech Business

So, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups (or, more precisely, groups displaying a bit too much gusto for limited government) was far more widespread than its initial apology would have led Americans to imagine. Yes, it is disturbing – a dangerous abuse of power, no doubt. What’s more disturbing – or should be, at least – is the fact that the IRS has the capacity to undermine free speech in the first place. Despite President Barack Obama’s assurances, there are no safeguards that can be put into place to stop abuses of power.

So, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups (or, more precisely, groups displaying a bit too much gusto for limited government) was far more widespread than its initial apology would have led Americans to imagine.

Yes, it is disturbing – a dangerous abuse of power, no doubt. What’s more disturbing – or should be, at least – is the fact that the IRS has the capacity to undermine free speech in the first place. Despite President Barack Obama’s assurances, there are no safeguards that can be put into place to stop abuses of power.

The IRS doesn’t just collect taxes. It also enforces speech codes. Americans assembling to gripe about Washington should not have to petition Washington for the right to do so. Yet Democrats (and Republicans such as John McCain) have, for a long time, advocated deputizing the IRS with deep and wide-ranging powers over free speech.

Some liberals have argued that it’s reasonable for the IRS to pay special attention to the flood of tea party groups asking for 501©(4) applications (even though similarly motivated left-wing groups experienced little problems doing the same). In a 2012 editorial, in fact, The New York Times’ editorial board praised the IRS for targeting tea party groups because they did not “primarily” engage in “social welfare,” the designation used to merit tax exemption under Section 501©(4) of the tax code.

I suppose I would argue that any organization advocating unfettered free markets is advocating social welfare. Somehow I assume The New York Times has other ideas about the world. The real mystery is why the IRS should have any opinion on the matter at all.

Washington already knows that the 501© designations are a joke, as those involved rhetorically tiptoe around any exceptionally partisan phrases. But to engage in a concerted political effort doesn’t pivot on the need for direct communication when, intuitively speaking, everyone knows what to do.

Example: It’s not as if the Obama administration sends The New York Times’ editorial board talking points, yet The New York Times’ editorial board always seems to get it just right.

Why have so many on the left been defensive? Well, politics, of course. But there are other reasons. Just listen to the left treat tax-exempt status as a privilege bestowed by government. Taxes have morphed from a societal obligation into moral code. And our convoluted tax structure reflects this mindset, allowing politicians to favor trade and offer populist giveaways to solidify political power. Any simplification or flattening of that code would strip Washington of its most effective tool.

Any attack on the credibility of the IRS matters because soon enough, it will be forcing us to buy things, as well as regulating speech. Obamacare’s unprecedented expansion tasks the IRS as dispenser of the “penalty” coercing Americans to partake in a collective health insurance scheme – and discerning the intent of more than 40 new taxes, to boot. This will be handled by the same fine organization that was recently hit with a class action suit alleging it improperly accessed and stole the health records of some 10 million Americans – some 60 million medical records, including psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual/drug treatment and other medical treatment data.

Yes, reasonable people understand that government isn’t systematically trying to find out what they had for breakfast or what they watch on TV. That would be as paranoid as believing that the National Rifle Association and the Koch brothers have the power to control millions of voters. But rational people understand that abuse happens. If you’re worried about the government’s invading your privacy, there is no agency with more means to do it than the IRS.

So though this is a fine time to push the politics of scandal – because occasionally, politics is substantive – it would be more constructive for the GOP to push for tax and IRS reform.

COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.