IRS Profiling. Scandal? I Think Not.

Republicans are so transparent, so self-centered, so clueless, yet so stupid, that everything they do in Washington is getting to be…so tiresome. Now we have another minor administrative, bureaucratic glitch in one agency of Washington, and the dumb R’s are flogging it like they flog all the other dead horses they dig up, in the hopes that unlike all the other scandals that come and go, these will be remembered in the elections of November, 2014.  It turns out the election of Obama in 2008 ignited a  flurry of so-called patriotism. We elected a black man to the White House.

“Oh, horrors, the country is going to hell in a hand-basket! He’s going to take our guns away from us! He’s going to tax us to death, and call it health care! He’s going to spend, spend, spend all of our hard earned money that he forces us to pay to the gub’mint as tax! Did I mention that he’s going to tax us to death? We need to band together so he doesn’t tread on the collective ME! We need to set up organizations that will resist him! Let’s call them “Tea Parties” because we really like that story about the Boston Patriots protesting “No Taxation Without Representation” by tossing tea, subject to tax, off the boats that delivered them to us back in Seventeen Seventy Something! Yeah, we’ll start a new political party to oppose everything that nigger black man does. Hell, he ain’t even an American! We’ll show him! And since we don’t like paying taxes to his government, we’ll set up tax exempt corporations, so we can funnel all the money we raise into them, and his gub’mint won’t get any benefit (and we’ll get a write-off)!

Damn, that’s a good idea, aint it?”

So a flurry of 501(c)(4) companies apply to the IRS, with the words “Tea Party” or sometimes “Patriot” in their names,  as they’ve had to do under the law since 1959, asking that their tax exempt status be approved.  The only reason they even need to go to the IRS is because they don’t want the money, that’s going to be pouring in from the racists and bigots and insecure gun owners of the country, to be deemed income, on which they might have to pay a tax. That would defeat the whole purpose of the enterprise.

Hat in hand they apply to the IRS for approval. But there are so many requests (roughly double the normal number of applications) that the IRS, which is already under pressure from Republicans to cut costs and strip government down to something that can be drowned in a bathtub, has a hard time weeding out legitimate companies designed to “promote social welfare” from purely political organizations. The latter are prohibited for 501(c)(4) status.

It doesn’t help that most of these budding new “social welfare educational organizations” had taken on the name of an historical tax protest group, which existed solely on political grounds. Remember, the original Tea Party was protesting lack of  representation in government, not smaller government. So it seemed somewhat convenient to the under-staffed and overwhelmed IRS to simply “profile” organizations with those leading words in their name, as shorthand for “organization with political objectives trying to disguise itself as educational”. It took a lot of the guesswork out of the process for the IRS, but in the end, not one of them was denied tax exempt status, although the process took a little longer, arguably for good reason. The Tea Party organizations, in effect, shot themselves in the foot by using that particular nomenclature.

But was it right?

To hear Obama and his administration, the answer is no. These organizations should not have been “culled from the herd” on purely political grounds, and heads are being chopped for doing so, as I type. He says it was wrong, and it should never have been done. I think he is bending over backwards to apologize for something that needs no apology.

Was this really “profiling”? I don’t think so. First, profiling is usually used to differentiate people on purely arbitrary grounds based on racial characteristics, a characteristic that usually has no rational basis in reality for  isolating the bad apple in the group.  For instance, choosing every swarthy, dark-haired  man with a mustache with a name beginning with “al” in the line at the airport for a strip search is not a way to  prevent plane hijackings. You don’t have to look like that description to hijack a plane and not all men with that description hijack planes, or are even inclined to do so. It’s a basic human rights issue.

But when tasked with the responsibility to approve applications for tax exempt organizations, it’s not profiling to pick organizations that choose names identifying them as sympathetic to ideologies that are purely political in nature, and are disinclined to pay even properly assessed taxes. And they were not denied any basic rights, like the right to travel. All they had to do was substantiate their legitimate purposes. You know, the ones they swear to when they fill out the 501(c) application.

If a man tries to board a plane carrying a pistol in a holster on his hip, is it profiling to have a policy that requires the TSA to stop and detain all men with pistols? Likewise, is it profiling to scrutinize organizations that wear on their sleeves their anti-tax and political bona fides? I think the answer to both questions is a resounding NO. Obama should not have been so quick to denounce his employees who were simply trying to execute the requirements of the law.

Such a scenario does not a scandal make. As Amy Poehler quipped on Saturday Night Live:

“You named yourself after a group of people who proudly and historically violated tax laws,” Ms. Poehler noted. “Look, if I had a vanity license plate that said ‘WEED420,’ I might expect to get pulled over now and then.”

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