, Salem, MA


June 1, 2013

Column: That rotten IRS, daring to profile tax-haters

Once a month, when my busy schedule of distractions allows, I attend a meeting of fellows who are concerned about the state of the country and like beer. It is sort of a men’s book club — sort of, because its members take pains not to read any of the suggested books.

The group’s members meet for dinner at a Pittsburgh tavern. Most are politically conservative, but — to their credit — they like a few liberal voices in their midst.

Last week, I was the duty agent provocateur, or, as we say in America, jerk. Bill, the group’s founder, was discussing the evils of the Obama administration. He holds it responsible for every bad thing in the world, I think — but on this night the subject was the Internal Revenue Service targeting the tea party and like-minded groups for special scrutiny.

It would have been easy to agree with Bill, because the IRS did screw up. Further, its cause was not helped when Lois Lerner, director of its tax-exempt organization division, told a House committee she’d done nothing wrong but needed to exercise her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by not testifying about the nonwrongdoing.

But agreeing with Bill is a certain way to spoil the fun. Besides, while the IRS move was wrong, it wasn’t without a certain logic.

Besides, condemning the Obama administration over this incident rests on dubious assumptions. First, that Barack Obama is a very bad man and his administration is the most political ever seen (and apparently different from his predecessor, the one whom it is no longer politically correct to name — he had no politics at all and that Dick Cheney was just a figment of our imaginations).

Therefore, the idea that this scandal was limited to one office in Cincinnati can be discounted and we can assume a political motive and proceed to call this the worst scandal since Nero fiddled while Rome burned and then blamed it on the fire department for stopping to listen.

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