Partisan politics is keeping the Benghazi controversy on the front page, but in time with all the investigations and committee hearings the American people should know, as much as it’s possible to know, what happened, what went wrong, what could or could not have been prevented, and other related issues. And while Fox News can be counted on to carry this story until at least 2014, if not 2016, in my opinion the much bigger event is how the IRS targeted conservative groups, such as different tea parties that sought a lawful tax exempt status.
What makes this latest IRS scandal so egregious is that it is hardly the first time that politicians or bureaucrats have singled out their enemies, dissidents, or disfavored groups for “special” tax treatment. Recall that Nixon’s enemies list included journalists, political opponents and almost anyone of prominence that disagreed with one or another of the president’s policies. It seems that every few years history repeats itself, and the weapon of choice to destroy your opponent is the heavy hand of the IRS. And it is as effective as it is scary. At least in this instance there isn’t a scintilla of evidence that the president knew anything about what some renegade IRS officials apparently decided to do on their own.
Anyone who has been on the IRS merry-go-round knows how time consuming, costly and difficult it is to get off it. I’m sure that we can all count on the usual platitudes coming from our elected officials about the abuse of power, how they are going to introduce legislation to prevent future occurrences, and on and on with the same blather. And this blather is a first cousin of the never ending promises of tax reform. One of the reasons for the latest scandal is the complexity of the tax code. The endless paperwork and labyrinthine regulations make it easy for a power hungry bureaucrat to frustrate an applicant for some kind of tax break. For the ordinary working stiffs that have every good intention of paying what they owe, how often do they get caught up in some official’s scrutiny for reasons that will probably never be known? The oppressive paperwork of compliance with the tax code is by itself reason enough to get rid of it. Simplicity alone would go a long way toward many more people paying their taxes, but each year the IRS regulations grow by hundreds of additional pages providing a full employment bill for tax accountants and lawyers.
I wish I had an answer for how to get our elected officials to begin a serious discussion about creating a whole new tax code that is simple for everyone. But as long as special interests are willing to fund political campaigns to preserve their tax breaks, what you will get from your elected official is the usual rhetoric of how it’s time to throw out the current tax code coupled with all sorts of talk about a fair tax, flat tax, consumption tax, and other ideas. Crowds get worked up, scream “right on”, leave filled with some hope, and end up with nothing. As long as these same political folks can keep the people’s attention diverted over Benghazi and other such controversies, the shell game will continue as the ball of tax reform remains out of sight.