A Thought on the IRS

Peggy Noonan wants an investigation into the IRS and its behavior over the last few years.  She has ample justification for one:

We do not know who ordered the targeting of conservative groups and individuals, or why, or exactly when it began.  We don’t know who executed the orders or directives. We do not know the full scope or extent of the scandal.  We don’t know, for instance, how many applicants for tax-exempt status were abused.

We know the IRS commissioner wasn’t telling the truth in March 2012, when he testified: “There’s absolutely no targeting.”  We have learned that Lois Lerner lied when she claimed she had spontaneously admitted the targeting in a Q-and-A at a Washington meeting.  …  We know the tax-exempt bureau Ms Lerner ran did not simply make mistakes because it was overwhelmed with requests—the targeting began before a surge in applications.  And Ms Lerner did not learn about the targeting in 2012—the IRS audit timeline shows she was briefed in June 2011.  She said the targeting was the work of rogue agents in the Cincinnati office.  But the Washington Post spoke to an IRS worker there, who said: “Everything comes from the top.”

And, she points out that we know about Catherine Engelbrecht.  We also know that the weight of the targets do not support the premise of this being simply an inability by low-level IRS employees to interpret the relevant tax law—”they” interpreted it, in Noonan’s words, “with a vengeance.”  And we know who “they” is: as a worker in the IRS’ Cincinnati office told the Washington Post,

Everything comes from the top.  We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them.  There has to be a directive.

“The top” would include Lerner, who after denying any wrong-doing then pled the 5th in an effort to prevent anyone questioning whether that was true.  “The top” would include the ex-IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman, who lied to the House of Representatives when he testified that there was no targeting going on—even as it then was going full tilt.  “The top” would include soon-to-be ex-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who actively stonewalled, if not outright lied to, the House during his own testimony.

Noonan wants an investigation, a dead serious one:

The IRS has colorfully demonstrated that it cannot investigate itself.  The Obama administration wants the FBI—which answers to Eric Holder’s Justice Department—to investigate, but that would not be credible.  The investigators of the IRS must be independent of the administration, or their conclusions will not be trustworthy.

An independent counsel, with all the powers of that office, is what we need.

As she says, if the IRS isn’t stopped now, it never will be.  But an independent investigation also will meet with stonewalling and delay—and we have two critical national elections coming up in 2014 and 2016, short one and three years away.

What’s needed is a complete elimination of the IRS and a new agency put into its place— with today’s IRS incumbents, at all levels, ineligible to apply for work there.  (Separately, but just as critically, a total reform of our tax code into a simple flat rate, no exceptions system is necessary—which would dovetail nicely with replacing the present IRS with a much smaller, simpler tax collection agency.)  Unfortunately, this both is no more likely to happen than a serious investigation, and it also will take time.

Which puts a premium on getting started.

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