A Taxing Situation

The more I learn about the so-called IRS tax scandal, the more I pity the IRS. When this story broke, the story was billed as President Obama was using the IRS against his political enemies. Well, that’s a bad thing! It was so reminiscent of Richard ordering the IRS to go after his political enemies, like Paul Newman and Tony Randall. Think of it—Nixon taking on Felix Ungar. That seems as simple, and as impeachable, as anything.

Time will eventually what all the facts are, and perhaps Obama will be proven guilty of this charge and dozens of other perfidious deeds. But it doesn’t seem like this will be the case. Let me ask you: when it was first alleged in 1973 or 1974 that Nixon had committed this misdeed, did it seem plausible? Hell, yeah, it did. Tricky Dick? Sure. Now, does it seem Obama could be guilty? Not really. Just watching him, he seems entirely too indulgent of his enemies. He’s got one move: drone ‘em. If he can’t do that, he assumes his holier-than-thou pose, and goes play basketball or something.

It does seem that the IRS may be guilty of anything, it is guilty of using profiling. Forced to make some expedient sense of some 70,000 applications for 50©4 tax status, it seems that the IRS used some kind of filter that puled the applications of people using “Tea Party’’ or “Patriot’’ in their title. Later they broadened the key word search to include progressive and other words. Still, the damage was done.

Profiling, let’s face it, is an act more politically incorrect than criminal. It casts an eye of suspicion over a large group whose members, mostly, have done nothing to merit that kind of attention. It’s a blunt instrument, and like a lot of blunt instruments, it is occasionally effective. But it’s really just not a smart enough way to do things, and should be eliminated as a tool.

At this point, do I think that the IRS has done something morally wrong? The Tea Party is avowedly low-tax. The Tea Party has not distinguished itself by its ability to understand the details of legislation. This law mostly affects political consultants and fat cat donors, not citizens engaged in grass roots politics. As far as I can tell, the IRS was mostly making sure applicants fit the criteria of the law.

So far, my outrage has been mostly contained. What I’m really getting angry about is the tax code itself. It’s not new that there is favoritism in the tax code; now it seems like the whole thing is just a structure of subsidies to special interests. And the poor, despised IRS is like the Internal Affairs division of a politically corrupt police force; all it’s trying to do is enforce the laws other people have passed, among a population that regards you as an enemy.

[Cross-posted at jamiemalanowski.com]

Jamie Malanowski

Jamie Malanowski is a writer and editor. He has been an editor at Time, Esquire and most recently Playboy, where he was Managing Editor.