George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘IRS

POLITICAL JUSTICE

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The failure of the FBI to file any criminal charges in the blatant targeting of the administration’s political opponents by the IRS is deeply troubling. The investigation is a sham, given that many of the targets themselves were never interviewed. As the Wall Street Journal noted “That’s like investigating a burglary without interviewing the burgled.” The Justice department is also stonewalling the congress, refusing to provide any witnesses involved in conducting the investigation. 

None of this is surprising. Apart from counter-terrorism activity in recent years, anyone who has ever had any dealings with them knows that, contrary to their TV image, the FBI essentially consists of messenger boys for the US Attorneys. It is not all that different than the relationship between the local police and district attorneys. 

 The US Attorneys are in turn political appointees, and decisions as to whom and whom not to prosecute are very often political. The notion that there is impartial justice at this level is laughable, at least when it comes to government or political activities. There is a frivolous argument floating around that other administrations have behaved politically as well. True enough, but none have been anywhere near as extensive as this one, which has clearly crossed the line in terms of blatant political calculation. Under Eric Holder the Justice department is driven by ideology more than the law. 

 Consider the ramifications here, whatever your political viewpoint. Sooner or later the other party will return to power. What if they behave the same way? If justice becomes a political process, based upon friends and enemies, then the legitimacy of the entire legal system is undermined. If politicians and bureaucrats can act arbitrarily according to what they want, believe in, or oppose rather than what is legally mandated, then the law becomes something of an afterthought, to be applied when convenient, and ignored when it is not. This is the kind of behavior used by authoritarian regimes. It only becomes a difference of degree between what is left of the constitution and a banana republic. These factors, along with extraconstitutional actions that are actually being applauded by radicals puts over two hundred years of law and precedent in jeopardy. 

Furthermore a serious abuse of power, by any measure, has been grossly underreported, with very little follow up and even less explanation provided about  this scandal. What happened here was harassment of political opponents, leaking of their confidential taxpayer data to political allies, lying to congress by senior officials claiming there was no targeting, then claiming it was only the work of low-level employees, and otherwise deliberately obfuscating what transpired. We are talking about the IRS dealing with taxpayers based upon political considerations rather than objective facts, thus undermining the legitimacy of that institution, perhaps irreparably. The seriousness of these infractions cannot be overstated, for if they were to become commonplace the constitutional system would be fatally undermined.

 This all stems from an administration that seems to be permanently in campaign mode, where it is quite effective, but disastrously inept when it comes to actually governing. International affairs are rudderless, and domestic policy is in complete disarray, in large measure because everything is perceived through an ideological framework. When the justice system is run this way it is simply no longer just. If the rules are ignored by those in charge there is every incentive for everyone else to do the same. Thus, political justice ultimately means no justice for anyone. 

 

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GOVERNMENT FAILURE (AND PAST SUCCESSES)

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Now that the dust has cleared from the partial government “shutdown” the administration’s failures are glaringly clear. This would have been apparent sooner had the standoff not occurred, which also seriously damaged the Republicans as a viable alternative to incompetent government. The best thing that party could do would be to shut up and stand back until next November, and let the magnitude of failure become clear. For the administration has lost credibility on several fronts.

The disastrous roll-out of Obamacare is getting worse and worse by the day, creating havoc in the health care industry while failing to provide the promised coverage to individuals. What was unpopular to begin with is even more so today. The Health and Human Services administration appears to be clueless with regard to implementation, and few of the President’s promises are being realized. 

The President has lost the confidence of much of the rest of the world that once provided such an enthusiastic greeting when he first appeared on the scene. The Germans, French, and other Europeans, as well as the  Brazilians are outraged over NSA snooping in their countries, particularly on government officials. The Saudis are breaking away, feeling they have been misled on policy toward Syria, i.e. drawing red lines, threatening intervention, etc. and then reversing course, while also cozying up with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Iranians. The last has rattled the Israelis, who, with their very existence on the line, have no confidence in this administration. On and on it goes as much of the world’s leadership has been alienated, and the standing of the United States has been weakened.

Under this administration government agencies have been blatantly political in their actions. The IRS has been caught targeting opposition individuals and groups, yet this agency is being charged with enforcing Obamacare mandatory coverage and fines on everyone. The SEC, under a long-time Democratic party hack is levying unprecedented record fines, while the Justice Department has been shaking down banks for billions largely for lending money to people the government forced them to lend to in the first place.

Economic growth is being severely hampered by ill-considered regulations, and stalling big projects like the Keystone pipeline. Unemployment remains high and job opportunities few. Then there was a trillion dollar stimulus that appears to have gone down a black hole. Can anyone find a single new bridge or major infrastructure project out of this?

Worst of all is the leadership failure. The President, instead of being above the fray, has been insidiously partisan in his words and deeds. Rather than the promised unity he has sown deep divisions, reducing himself to being a posturing ideologue that his affability can no longer mask.  But in all of this there are lessons to be learned. You cannot ram through radical change with no input or cooperation from the other side. Government works best when there is consensus and compromise by all parties. For it is not as though differences are unresolvable.

This president does not seem to understand that he owns everything that happens on his watch. He has said he wants to be a transformational president, like Reagan. He has been transformational in some sense, but not like Reagan, as successes are pretty hard to identify. In any case, though people often wish it, it is a different world today and we don’t need another Reagan now. What we need is an Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a great president who has been grossly underestimated by historians and the press, based upon the false notion that he was stupid, largely because in response to questions he would sometimes mumble or say something irrelevant. But he was actually crafty, insofar as this  was his method of not dealing with things it was not necessary for him to deal with. Greatness does not always come from bold actions, but also from prudent inaction. For he always strove for consensus and letting things work themselves out. He never acted rashly, indeed he never acted unless he absolutely had to. This was also a man who held together the alliance of very different countries to achieve victory in World War II, and thus was very skilled in managing often sharp differences. As a result he was immensely popular and presided over some of the happiest days this country has ever known. The world would be a much better place today if we simply had someone like that in office.

 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

October 24, 2013 at 4:24 PM

CAN THE IRS SURVIVE?

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Many people may be angry about scandals that have emerged with regard to the Benghazi attacks, IRS political shenanigans, and government actions against the press, but more are oblivious to it all. It requires a modicum of civic knowledge to understand the nature of these offenses, a characteristic that is sorely missing among a substantial part of the population, who are more aware of celebrities and television shows, having never learned any of the basic principles of government while attending failing schools. Thus, without relentless media attention, they will likely blow over. That is why the actions against certain media figures are  unbelievably stupid. Why James Rosen? He is not even a partisan. Why CBS and the Associated Press? Whether that is enough for the press to do a turnabout from their uncritical coverage and stay with these stories remains to be seen. 

 But what is likely to be more lasting is the scandal of the IRS targeting conservative groups for political reasons. A lesser known corollary to this is the vast network of left-wing “nonprofit” groups engaged in political activity who not only are given a pass but are even funded by the government. People tolerate the IRS because the assumption is that everyone gets treated the same. Once it becomes clear this is not true, the basic foundations of the revenue system are undermined. 

While this partisan activity  is an ominous abuse of government power, the damage may run deeper. The IRS has the authority to gather a considerable amount of personal information about citizens; in fact, it is sanctioned to compel disclosure from recalcitrants. With that there is a basic trust that this information will be handled discreetly and objectively by an impersonal bureaucracy. This trust has now been shattered, and with it there has been a loss of legitimacy, for it is no longer a disinterested public institution. Now it is nothing more than another part of the cluster of institutions aligned with the left, which is unsurprisingly providing cheering section condoning and applauding these abuses, and revealing a troubling totalitarian mindset.

It was natural all along for the IRS and its personnel to be aligned with the party of government, both having an interest in ever increasing revenue. But it is more than revenue. In the process they get to peruse and evaluated your life, assuming you’re part of that half of the population that files and pays taxes. Think about it. When you file your taxes the government is basically compelling you to account for yourself over the past year, and if you don’t meet the deadline you’re in trouble. You must report to the government every year. If you get audited, you’re guilty until proven innocent, and the IRS holds most of the cards. As the agency has expanded the powers and activities it has been allowed to pursue since its inception,  it has been able to infringe on basic freedoms, reducing your privacy and ability to be left alone. 

Can its legitimacy ever be restored? Should it be restored? There are many alternative revenue schemes that could be adopted that are far less intrusive. I’m not advocating any particular solution here, so much as the idea that we ought to be looking at alternatives that are far less intrusive on private life. This would restore some basic liberties while reducing the power of government, and hence the potential for that power to be abused. It would allow for a single standard applicable to everyone. Whether politicians will actually adapt such a system is another question, for they love tinkering with the tax code to appease various interests, or provide “incentives” and exemptions for what they want done. This results in a system that is not only unfair, but now clearly is illegitimate. The IRS is beyond salvation.  It’s tainted. We should just get rid of it. 

 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

May 24, 2013 at 6:28 PM