From Washington comes the scandal du jour, this time that the IRS has targeted "conservative" groups, particularly those using the words "tea party" or "patriots" in their name, for special scrutiny, audits, and other harassment. In March 2012, following complaints from such groups, the head of the IRS denied to Congress that such things were occurring. On Friday May 10 Lois Lerner, head of the IRS tax-exempt-organizations division, admitted that it had occurred, and apologized for the conduct, calling it "absolutely inappropriate," but attributing it to low level workers. Then over the weekend it came out that an upcoming report by the Inspector General of the Treasury Department was going to disclose that higher ups knew that such targeting was going on as early as June 2011, nine months before the denial to Congress. Today at a news conference, President Obama decided it was time to deflect the attention elsewhere, and went on record calling the conduct "outrageous."
Is someone about to uncover the directive from the Obama White House to begin a campaign of tax audits of political enemies and opponents? I doubt it. This doesn't come from a particular directive. This comes from the general overall no-need-to-mention-it-specifically directive, which is that the purpose of government is to always and everywhere advocate for its own protection and expansion. Mickey Kaus at the Daily Caller calls it:
[Y]ou don’t need direct White House involvement to politicize the IRS, at least for Democrats. The underlings know what to do! The idea that they are apolitical professionals was always a myth.
Kaus titles his post "Memories," and helpfully lists, with the aid of a Judicial Watch filing, many of the entities and people revealed to have been subject to IRS audits during the Clinton years:
The National Rifle Association, The Heritage Foundation, The National Review, The American Spectator, Freedom Alliance, National Center for Public Policy Research, American Policy Center, American Cause, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for Honest Government, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Concerned Women for America and the San Diego Chapter of Christian Coalition.
And don't forget this list of instantly-recognizable Clinton-era names:
Clinton paramours Gennifer Flowers and Liz Ward Gracen, sexual assault accusers Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick, and fired White House Travel Office Director Billy Dale.
How do you justify engaging in this sort of behavior if you are an IRS functionary? Easy. You have the Democratic world view that government spending helps people and more government spending helps people more. If a group is advocating more government spending to help the old, or the poor, or the homeless, or the children, then obviously that is a charitable purpose. But a group advocating cutting government spending or shrinking the government? Obviously that's political! No tax-exempt treatment for that. Although many press reports have described the IRS targets as being "conservative" groups, it was actually not just any conservative groups. For example, groups that support "law and order," or that oppose abortion, are often referred to as conservative. But those organizations were not the targets of these audits (as least as so far revealed). Instead, the particular targets of these audits were groups whose main purpose is to advocate for decrease of government spending and shrinkage of the government.
Kaus also links to David Brooks speaking on NPR last fall, just before the election, attempting to defend BLS bureaucrats who had just put out jobs numbers that were extremely helpful in the president's re-election efforts. Brooks' take:
They're numbers geeks. They do their jobs. They go home. They're not that political. And I guarantee you the people in the BLS are totally committed to the numbers. If somebody tried to introduce politics in their work, there would be mass resignations and there would be a lot of calls to reporters at various institutions saying this is happening. So I guarantee you, I feel very strongly it's not happening.
He's probably narrowly right, but at the same time unbelievably naive. Sure the bureaucrats who compile the numbers view themselves as "apolitical," with "apolitical" meaning going along with the universal consensus of Washington that government spending helps people and cutting it harms people. The problem with the government numbers on virtually everything is not that they are fraudulently compiled within their defined parameters; the problem is that the parameters have been designed such that the numbers will inevitably be useful in the never-ending campaign for bigger government. Thus GDP statistics are designed so that government spending is defined to increase the economy and cuts to government spending are defined to shrink the economy, even though that is a fallacy; and the poverty rate is designed so that it can never go down; and accounting for social Security and Medicare liabilities is designed to conceal the magnitude of those liabilities from the taxpayers; and so forth. The numbers may well be accurately compiled within their definitions, but the definitions are inherently deceptive and frankly, the people who compile them know that full well.