IRS Has a Long History of Political Abuse

IRSU.S. GovernmentAs Jesse Walker noted earlier, recent revelations about the targeting of Tea Party and small-government groups by the Internal Revenue Service may mean that "we're looking at some old-fashioned, deliberate, Kennedy- or Nixon-style political harassment via the taxman." In fact, the use of the ever-intrusive and inquisitorial IRS as a political bludgeon by whichever party controls the executive branch has a long history, starting, apparently, as far back as the administration of Frankling Delano Roosevelt. In New Deal or Raw Deal, author Burton Fulsom, Jr. (admittedly, no FDR fan) devoted a chapter to the early use of the IRS as a political hit squad.

The chapter delves at some length into the politicization of tax collectors under the Roosevelt administration, including not only its use as a hit squad against critics, but the tight leash on which it was put when friends of the administration were involved. But perhaps most telling is a comment by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's own son:

“My father,” Elliott Roosevelt observed of his famous parent, “may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution.”

Keep in mind that the IRS isn't dangerous and politicized because it's wielded by the Obama administration. The tax agency has been abused and used against political enemies by presidents of both parties. The IRS is dangerous because of its vast, almost unaccountable powers, and the temptations those pose for politicians.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Sevo||

    Yes, and the left almost always calls the IRS on it. Almost.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, sure. I don't think this administration invented political harassment via the tax collector.

  • Nazdrakke||

    The IRS is dangerous because of its vast, almost unaccountable powers, and the temptations those pose for politicians.

    This. A thousand times This. In all seriousness the fact that you have to prove your innocence of their guilty determination when they come calling or the men with guns will be by to collect is vile beyond words.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "Do you blame the weapon for the hand that wields it?"

  • Live Free or Diet||

    When the weapon is other human beings, yes.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Me too - they knew what they were doing.

  • Rich||

    Just a doggone minute, J.D. Lois Lerner, *the IRS official in charge of overseeing tax exempt groups*, said this sort of stuff is due to overzealous low-level employees.

  • sasob||

    Probably one of the few examples of zealous or overzealous government employees one is likely to find, cops perhaps being another.

  • Voros McCracken||

    If there are any IRS agents reading this, I just want you to know:

    I think the IRS consistently does a fantastic job, and their employees are not only smart and courteous, but attractive and they smell good as well. I think there's no other organization someone should be prouder to work for than the IRS.

    {smiles anxiously}

  • Rich||

    I think there's no other organization someone should be prouder to work for than the IRS.

    Whoa, Voros.

    You just pissed off a *passel* of folks.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    ALRIGHT THERE, "RICH" - next up on the audit list for heckling that fine man, Mr. McCracken's and his writing!

    /IRS Agent

  • The Original Jason||

    Those folks don't have the power to bring on the world of hurt that the IRS has...

  • np||

    Marc Stevens talking about challenging judges, state, tax agents, etc:

    http://youtu.be/JrwocPSggAU?t=28m

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement