In the ongoing effort to protect its funding and grow still further, the government and its employees constantly seek to divert our attention from what is important, and few journalists are awake enough to push back. (Or maybe most journalists are part of the project.) Anyway, a couple of examples from today's news, from the IRS and Obamacare files.
Richard Rubin of Bloomberg News is focused on whether the IRS has used a numerical test to determine which groups qualify for Section 501(c)(4) status. A few weeks ago, then acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller was asked whether the IRS applied a "49 percent standard" to determine the limit of political activity that a group could have and still qualify for the special tax status, and he testified "We've never been that precise." Then yesterday one Elizabeth Hofacre, an IRS employee of the notorious Cincinnati office, testified that "[g]roups that devoted no more than 49 percent of their activities to politics were deemed acceptable." Contradiction!
In my view it's all a distraction. The real issue here, from which attention is being diverted, is the definition of "social welfare" versus "political activity." These IRS functionaries believe that advocating for the government to take care of and cure society's problems through spending and programs constitutes "social welfare" activity (hey, it's "helping the poor" and "the children"!), while advocating to shrink the government constitutes "political activity." Under these definitions, all left/liberal advocacy groups automatically qualify for 501(c)(4) status, and all Tea Party groups automatically are disqualified. And thus the government assures that its allies in the growth project get favored tax status and its enemies do not.
Can somebody please ask the question, what are your definitions of "social welfare" and "political activity"? I've looked a lot and can't find anybody asking about that.
In the Obamacare department, the diversionary tactic is to try to focus our attention on the upcoming premium level versus some arbitrary benchmark of their own choosing. Thus the claim two weeks ago by Covered California Director Peter Lee that "we will be able to deliver exceptional value, low rates, access to health care in every region of the state . . ." blah, blah, blah. Well, if I am a young, healthy person with no assets to protect, please compare the cost of one of these policies to the amount of health care that I would expect to buy without insurance. Believe me, Lee will never let out that information.
Oh, but here it is in a column yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Holman Jenkins, quoting no less a source than Justice Samuel Alito at the 2012 Supreme Court arguments on Obamacare. (Alito must have gotten the information from one of the many amicus briefs.) And the answer is, "young, healthy adults today spend an average of $854 a year on health care," while "ObamaCare would require them to buy insurance policies expected to cost roughly $5,800." Well, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but no amount of diversionary tactics is going to keep that kind of disparity under wraps forever.