I cannot say that I have ever subscribed to the anti-government paranoia of the black helicopter crowd.
I will admit to harboring deep-seated suspicions about the Internal Revenue Service and the way it conducts its affairs in the name of our federal government. The fact that bureaucrats are left to navigate and interpret the thicket of arcane tax codes and laws promulgated by a Congress that most often is more interested in how it will affect re-election prospects rather than whether it is good policy is, in and of itself, a recipe for disaster.
While it should not be all that surprising to many that some within the IRS abuse their authority—after all, stories of this type have been around for decades—the fact that they are finally getting the airing they deserve is heartening. One has to assume Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee currently investigating IRS abuses, has had his own tax returns thoroughly vetted to ensure he isn’t a target of a tit-for-tat vendetta by the famously aggressive auditors of the agency.
Anyone who knows the history of J. Edgar Hoover’s long reign at the FBI surely is aware that one of the keys to that longevity was the leverage he gained by (usually illegally) investigating and thus knowing the darkest secrets of our nation’s leaders. It is likely the impunity with which IRS bureaucrats have been able to exact punishment on taxpayers who find themselves guilty until proven innocent—often with assets seized without court action—is the threat that has surely hung over any prior investigation by Congress into their behavior.
Their pattern of seizures of the assets of those least able to defend themselves is the stuff of legend. As is their inability to collect anything more than cents-on-the-dollar from the major league tax cheats who surround themselves with hired-gun accountants, lawyers, and politicians.
That IRS employees abused their authority to harass small-fry taxpayers is one thing; abusing taxpayers by wasting the revenue they raise is another altogether. There has been plenty of documented evidence the IRS hasn’t done a particularly good job of collecting taxes owed, despite their constant harassing of small-potatoes delinquents. But as recent revelations clearly show, that hasn’t stopped them from elaborate spending on conferences, “motivational” videos, etc. at taxpayer expense.
It kind of begs the question: Are they aggressively collecting taxes because it’s “their” money, or ours?
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently decided his aggressive investigation into the leaking of information sensitive to “national security” entitled his Justice Department to seize phone records of legitimate news gathering agencies and conduct criminal investigations into reporter’s activities. Now his boss wants him to investigate his department for executing his decision to seize the phone records. Really?
Ever wonder if the same kind of sharp minds that decided targeting groups that had “Tea Party”, or “Constitution” in their names was a good idea had a hand in deciding what constitutes a national security threat? Or that investigating reporters doing their job was a really swell idea?
Today we get word that at least one major communications company has been providing unlimited access to subscriber data to the National Security Agency. The government assures us this is all perfectly legal, perfectly safe.
There’s no question national security is and should remain a top priority. In fact, it is one of the few jobs the federal government should really undertake (but that’s for another day). However, it is a slippery slope when the government starts peeking into news reporter’s goodie bags of sources to find leaks or private citizens’ emails and data transmissions for unspecified “threats”.
As will become all too apparent at our local level as time goes by, if reporters cannot or will not cover stories about government then no one pays attention. While trying not to sound unduly alarmist, this truly is how totalitarian governments gain power.
It doesn’t matter which political philosophy you happen to adhere to, if no one is watching the people in charge and holding them accountable—bad things can and will happen.
So far, this presidential administration has taken on the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Tenth Amendment, and as has every administration, Republican or Democrat, since the creation of the agency, allows the IRS to regularly ride roughshod over the Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh.
Is that helicopters I hear?