IRS

Remember the Scandal Over the IRS Targeting Tea Party Groups? Glenn Reynolds Does

Instapundit on the long-term, corrosive effects of a "weaponized" IRS.

|

Wikipedia

It seems like so long ago, but really isn't. In 2013, President Barack Obama acknowledged that the IRS had in fact been directing extra scrutiny to broadly defined right-wing "Tea Party" groups as they applied for various forms of tax-code recognition. In fact, Obama forced out the acting commissioner of the agency and pledged publicly, "I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but particularly the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives."

Paul Caron, a Pepperdine University academic who runs the always interesting TaxProf blog, recently celebrated the 1000th day of the scandal, which he argues (convincingly) has never really been covered or investigated fully. After Obama's first big statements, interest drifted away for the most part and even the president's bald acknowledgements that something was rotten at the IRS started to be walked back.

In a new USA Today column, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who's been linking to TaxProf for the past 1,000-plus days, sums up the social implications of the IRS scandal: 

It's not just that evidence overwhelmingly points to the IRS having been weaponized in an effort to neutralize Obama's Tea Party opposition. It's that ordinary Americans can look at this and conclude that there's no reason to follow the law if they can get away with breaking it since the people in charge of enforcing the law clearly regard it with contempt.

In an influential essay several years back, Gonzalo Lira warned of the coming middle-class anarchy, when ordinary Americans decide to be no more lawful than they have to be.

There are plenty of nations that work that way — where both the ruling class and the ruled view the law with contempt and obey it only when forced to. Such places are, generally, not as nice as places where the rule of law pertains. But avoiding that kind of outcome requires principles and self-discipline on the part of the ruling class, something that contemporary America conspicuously lacks. Welcome to the era of hope and change.

Read the whole thing here.

Watch "3 MORE Reasons To Fear the IRS":

NEXT: ACLU Identifies 'Critical Civil Liberties Challenges Facing Our Country.' Does Not Include First Amendment

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.

  1. I don’t think contempt for the law would be such a bad thing assuming there is support for laws that protect peoples rights.

    1. Those are the type of laws politicians hold in contempt the most.

    2. “…there is support for laws that protect peoples rights.”

      I’m sure there would be official support for laws that protect certain people’s rights.

  2. Pepperidge Farm remembers.

    1. And I remember “Titus Moody” doing ads for Pepperidge Farms.

    2. I thought he was doing a bit.

  3. ordinary Americans can look at this and conclude that there’s no reason to follow the law if they can get away with breaking it since the people in charge of enforcing the law clearly regard it with contempt

    Ooooooo, no. This assumes that the same laws are investigated and enforced in the same way for the ordinary American and the people in charge. That’s a dangerously mistaken assumption.

    1. However, there are a lot more ordinary Americans than people in charge. Right now most people follow the laws because they like to think of themselves as ‘law abiding’ people. If that changes, and a few million (or more) people decide to begin thinking of themselves as ‘law ignoring’ people, how many do you think the government could effectively prosecute?

      1. As many as it wanted?

        1. “As many as it wanted?”

          Sure, but the enforcement would be selective. Just allocating scarce resources would ensure that. And if the results looked biased, then it would feed into the cycle and the effect would increase.

          1. The resources would be directed to have the maximum benefit to the enforcers. The distortions in the effect would be controlled to their favor.

            To wit: Warsaw Ghetto versus feudalism.

      2. Since there are more than 2 million currently incarcerated, I would have to say that they would not have a problem incarcerating a few million.

    2. Laws are for keeping us proles in line. Our betters have no need to be kept in line, because they’re our betters. /sarc

    3. Yeah, the difference between ordinary proles and people like Lois Lerner and Hillary are that the latter have the money and connections to game the system in their favor.

      1. You’re ugly when you’re jealous, Hugh.

      2. I dry-heaved a little seeing that picture of Lerner. If anyone deserves rectal cancer its her.

  4. What is Joe Biden whispering to Gary Coleman?

    1. You’re better off not knowing some things…

      1. That’s some sage advice from an old white guy.

    1. Old news! Move on!
      /derp

      1. You Republicans, dredging up ancient history in an attempt to score votes.

        1. Socialism is still fresh as the morning dew however, and so am I! / Bernie

  5. We are never going to recover from the Obama presidency.

    1. This will all be a distant memory, once the camps are up and running.

      All glory to the agricultural collective! You must feed the Bernieland!

  6. The takeaway from the Fourth Estate on this is that a Democrat administration can really get away with any level of abuse of power if the cause is just.

  7. Remember the Cant!

    1. OPA !!! OPA !!! OPA !!!

    2. Just finished the season last night and must say I thought it was really good.

      1. The good news is that they are doing a Season 2. The bad news is that it isn’t scheduled to air until Jan ’17.

        1. That show is almost completely unwatchable.

          1. The Ke$ha fan is giving lectures on taste…

  8. “when ordinary Americans decide to be no more lawful than they have to be….There are plenty of nations that work that way”

    In the G7 France and Italy work this way.

    I would make it G8 but have no idea how the heck to classify Russia.

    1. France is famous for passing strict laws, but not consistently enforcing them. They don’t go in so much for political, selective enforcement like modern day Russia. Instead, everybody just ignores the inconvenient laws at all levels. The philosophy obviously works, but it’s very different than the Anglo-Saxon model.

  9. After Obama’s first big statements, interest drifted away for the most part

    Umm, it did not drift away. There was a concerted effort to first downplay, then legitimize, then ignore the issue.

    1. ^This^

  10. recently celebrated the 1000th day of the scandal, which he argues (convincingly) has never really been covered or investigated fully.

    Isn’t this true for the half-dozen or more scandals from 2013?

    1. Yes. Something something… fake skandul… mumble mumble… racist teathuglikkkanz…

    2. Don’t forget about Bridgegate. All the NJ papers still run headlines about the investigation at least once a week. What’s funny is that nobody even thought that the traffic was intentional at first, because traffic is that bad at least once a month anyways.

  11. “Such places are, generally, not as nice as places where the rule of law pertains. But avoiding that kind of outcome requires principles and self-discipline on the part of the ruling class, something that contemporary America conspicuously lacks.”

    There’s this thing called the Protestant Work Ethic. It’s a real thing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Protestant_work_ethic

    When I hear criticism of white privilege and the dominant culture, I’m aware that the Protestant Work Ethic is both what those people are talking about and what they hate.

    They hate the idea that you’re responsible for your own life. They hate frugality and hard work. They hate white culture.

    White people in America are not without a culture of their own. We have a culture, and the Protestant Work Ethic is a big part of it. When the left is denigrating protestant religion, capitalism generally, or the selfishness of white people, understand what they’re really doing. They’re attacking our culture. The Protestant Work Ethic is our culture.

    1. Is that still a thing?

      http://www.theguardian.com/com…..ish-admire

      1. GDP per hour worked is still a thing.

        No question, this stuff is under attack. That was part of my point. When Reynolds writes, “Such places are, generally, not as nice as places where the rule of law pertains. But avoiding that kind of outcome requires principles and self-discipline on the part of the ruling class, something that contemporary America conspicuously lacks”, consciously or otherwise, he’s writing about the Protestant Work Ethic.

        From my wiki link above:

        “There was a time, in these United States, when a candidate for public office could qualify with the electorate only by fixing his birthplace in or near the “log cabin.” He may have acquired a competence, or even a fortune, since then, but it was in the tradition that he must have been born of poor parents and made his way up the ladder by sheer ability, self-reliance, and perseverance in the face of hardship. In short, he had to be “self made.” The so-called Protestant Ethic then prevalent held that man was a sturdy and responsible individual, responsible to himself, his society, and his God. Anybody who could not measure up to that standard could not qualify for public office or even popular respect. One who was born “with a silver spoon in his mouth” might be envied, but he could not aspire to public acclaim; he had to live out his life in the seclusion of his own class.[9]”

        1. If contemporary America conspicuously lacks “principles and self-discipline on the part of the ruling class”, it may be because contemporary America conspicuously lacks principles and self-discipline on the part of the voting class.

          1. “That beautiful life? You didn’t build it. It was all slaves and white privilege.”

            1. My accomplishments cannot be my own–no matter how hard I work for them?

              1. Proggies gonna collectivize.

    2. There’s this thing called the Protestant Work Ethic. It’s a real thing.

      To some extent, yes. But, I think it’s probably a mistake to confuse it as the cause rather than the effect. I think you find that the “Protestant” work ethic seems to creep up wherever you have governments that respect individual rights and private property. Chinese Americans, who a hundred years ago were derided as layabouts, all of a sudden become the epitome of that ethic. The same could be said of myriad ethnicities in this country.

      And that’s why the progressives want to destroy it. It’s part and parcel of a free society.

      1. There are other cultures that have a tradition of hard work. People from those cultures tend to thrive in a culture dominated by the Protestant Work Ethic, too. One need not be Protestant or religious in order to benefit from the culture.

        More specifically, I was responding to Reynolds’ suggestion that contemporary America lacks, “principles and self-discipline on the part of the ruling class”. If we had that in the past, it didn’t come from nowhere. It had a source.

        I simply identified the source.

        1. I understand. I just happen to disagree with you about the source. Protestantism tended to arise in areas where central authority had limited control. Not surprisingly, that tends to be where ideas like individual rights and liberties arise.

          And there’s plenty of predominantly Protestant areas where the work ethic sucks. They happen to be the ones where the government has little regard for individual rights and liberties.

          1. Are you just saying that the Protestant Work Ethic didn’t account for the “principles and self-restraint” of the ruling class, or are you saying that the Protestant Work Ethic never existed?

            If it’s the latter, can you name any other religions that didn’t influence the cultures they dominated, or is Protestantism the only one?

    3. I was tweeting with a Bernie-bot and a lib friend about ‘living wages’ today. Basically their argument is that it’s too hard. “How can you be frugal when you don’t have enough money?” “How can you make your skills better when you’re already working?”

      I’d rather give people to conditions and tools to succeed than make excuses for their current lack of skills.

  12. In an influential essay several years back, Gonzalo Lira warned of the coming middle-class anarchy, when ordinary Americans decide to be no more lawful than they have to be.

    There are plenty of nations that work that way ? where both the ruling class and the ruled view the law with contempt and obey it only when forced to.

    This already happens. Three felonies a day, motherfuckers. Get woke.

    1. +some anarchist calisthenics

  13. With Lois Lerner clearly responsible for politically motivated “tax attacks” on the Tea Party and not being charged with any crime, can anyone seriously believe that Hillary Clinton will be indicted?

    Marie Antoinette said “Let them eat cake”

    The Obama DOJ said “Let them eat shit”

    1. So where is the Republican congressional leadership on this? MIA.

      This is one of the reasons for Donald Trump’s popularity. Even when a political opportunity is presented to them, Republican leadership does nothing.

      I’m assuming the establishment Republicans aren’t too bothered by this scandal because it was the Tea Party that was targeted.

      1. Republican leadership does nothing.

        Indeed. The Repubs have done such a supine, spineless job of exercising the Congressional prerogative to oversee administrative agencies, investigate allegations of wrongdoing, etc. Its just sickening to me, and is a big reason why the Administrative State has gone lawless.

  14. The comments here seem to prove the author’s point, we’re already scofflaws when we believe it’s feasible and we have a pretty good expectation we’ll succeed. We all know plenty of laws that are bullshit, and we ignore them as often as is feasible. Everyone ignores speed limits to some extent at different times. It generally doesn’t result in the loss of life and limb. We individuals fear the IRS because they have such sweeping authority. We should also fear the unfettered acquisition of technology to deny us any privacy, as the law is so obviously complex and unknowable, that a system to strip away our privacy makes us all potential victims of the State. All they have to do is focus on an individual, and you can be sure they can find some violation somewhere. That breeds contempt. Especially when we can see “important people” committing obvious violations and free from punishment. We really are treated differently. If it happens often enough, and brazenly enough, we get more than a little pissed. Then politicians start thinking about ways to restrict those pesky Second Amendment rights… and down the slope we slide.

    1. “Everyone ignores speed limits to some extent at different times. It generally doesn’t result in the loss of life and limb.”

      No, that’s not exactly true. The speed limits aren’t quite as arbitrary as they seem. The people that set them know the median speed will be somewhat higher. So they are set low enough that the speeding offset will still be reasonably safe. Effectively all speed limits are green. Going above them is the yellow zone. Somewhere above that is a red zone.

      Try driving 20 mph faster than the locals do. And see how long you get away with it.

      “Especially when we can see “important people” committing obvious violations and free from punishment. We really are treated differently. If it happens often enough, and brazenly enough, we get more than a little pissed.”

      Here you nailed it. Respect for the law vanishes, if you observe the important people brazenly ignoring it.

      1. The speed limits aren’t quite as arbitrary as they seem.

        They are on the highway. Cross the Driscoll Bridge sometime, an 8 lane road with a 45 MPH limit seemingly put in place so a couple of troopers can spend their entire shifts writing speeding tickets.

        The base speed limits are woefully antiquated even if you assume that your average driver is going to break them by 10 MPH as a matter of course. And this problem is compounded by the fact that a certain subset of the population will adhere to the limit despite being passed by everyone else on the road, and their acting as a hazard is never targeted for any punitive action by the police.

        Local roads are usually a bit better thought out, but every town in America has that one road with a speed limit 15 MPH too low that cops just camp on.

        1. I was once again reminded two days ago for the thousandth time of exactly how dangerous the person sitting in the fast lane traveling the speed limit is. That person creates far more danger on the highway than the person doing 80 in a 65. It is not even close.

        2. Tonopah, NV has a highway running through it with a 30 mph speed limit and cops just waiting for victims.

          1. Yeah, but you have to go backwards in time and through two wormholes to find Tonopah.

            And the only thing they have there is a whorehouse.

      2. If you get a ticket for 71mph in a 70mph zone are you legally obligated to pay it? If so, then the speed limit actually is the law. Not that I’m advocating for tighter enforcement, just making clear that the number is the legal limit, not some nebulous number above the posted number. If you’re going to nit pick, lets try to stick with the facts. My general point is that we ALL violate the law regularly, and if the State decides to make you the next item on the menu, they’ll have plenty of obvious and not so obvious ways to serve you up to the “justice” system.

  15. Obama forced out the acting commissioner of the agency and pledged publicly, “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but particularly the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives.”

    Well, he forced out the acting commisioner, and pinky swore to “not tolerate this kind of behavior” anymore, so what more do you peanuts want? FAKE SKANDUL!1111!!!!!!!11!!!!!

    Kidding aside, once again Obozo has identified the root of the problem: that the IRS has the kind of power and reach to fuck up all of our lives, but won’t do anything about it. Because reforming the tax code and reducing or eliminating the IRS altogether is crazy wing nut talk.

    1. “Kidding aside, once again Obozo has identified the root of the problem: that the IRS has the kind of power and reach to fuck up all of our lives, but won’t do anything about it. Because reforming the tax code and reducing or eliminating the IRS altogether is crazy wing nut talk.”

      Hun, no, that completely misses the point. It’s not that Obama thinks reforming or eliminating the IRS is crazy talk, it’s because he likes the IRS (and the Federal government) to be that powerful. He assumes (with pretty good evidence) that the media will crucify any Republican abuse of power, keeping it in check, but let Democrats slide as long as there is any plausible excuse.

      If you think your side is always going to benefit from unchecked power, then your going to be encouraging greater power.

      1. I wasn’t so much saying that Obama thinks it’s crazy talk – he loves him some power, you’re correct about that – just that some of his idiotic mouth breather supporters do. And really, they love the idea of the government having the power to fuck people too, as long as that power is wielded by “the right people” against “the wrong people.”

    2. Obama forced out the acting commissioner of the agency

      I wish somebody would force me to retire with a full pension.

  16. Want to know what pisses me off?

    There is no way that Fast and Furious, the IRS, etc. make it into a history book. At least one that isn’t marketed to a conservative audience.

    So, in, like, 40 years, when some snot-nosed petition signer tells me how special Obama was, and I bring this up… blank look or outright denial. And then, when I’m like, “no, it was real, check out this book…” I will be told that the book is a right-wing screed- and it probably will be!

    So,basically, because “academic” history has an agenda (I would say that the field isn’t ALL SJWs, but that is a credit in large part to the Classic History peps) , the only way this is getting into the record is from more ideological books that will often be written in a more… “angry” (mental thesaurus is failing here) style and look less reliable.

    No, no, thanks political types. Because Obama being remembered well is more important than humanity’s millennia old quest for some kind of capital t Truth.

    Excuse me, gents. My fist has an appointment with a wall.

    1. The way thing are going, those will be just minor footnotes to America’s transition from republic to empire.

    2. more ideological books that will often be written in a more… “angry” (mental thesaurus is failing here) style

      You are looking for “polemical.”

      1. Nikki, you are the most unfavorable.

        1. I visualized what you performed there.

    3. It’s a different world now with the Internet. People are not nearly as reliant on history books as they once were.

    4. Because Obama being remembered well is more important than humanity’s millennia old quest for some kind of capital t Truth.

      Shit, just look at how slobberingly most history books treat Woodrow Wilson, FDR, fuck, even LBJ gets the sanitized history treatment (signed the CRA! Great Society! The Vietnam War? No, no, no, that was all just right wingers and the military industrial complex forcing his hand – or some such horseshit).

      This kind of shit right here is one of the many reasons why I can never have just one beer.

      1. There are no requirements for justifying more than one beer. It is just factually better to have more than one.

  17. “when ordinary Americans decide to be no more lawful than they have to be.”

    Aren’t we already at this point? Off the top of my head:
    1) Underage drinking is common, often with the explicit knowledge and assistance of parents who think 21 is a stupid drinking age.
    2) Does anybody treat the speed limit as a “limit”? Usually it’s the minimum speed with a fuzzy limit somewhere around 4 to 5 MPH higher than the posted limit.
    3) Building codes are regularly flaunted by DIYers. How many basement remodeling projects, backyard decks, etc. had building permits or inspections?

    Sure, people sometimes get caught on all three of these but people know that they can ignore the law and, usually, get away with it. If they get caught (a BIG if), the penalties can range of severe (tear down the garage) to minor (pay for the building permit after the fact) so they go for it.

    1. You cannot enforce laws that people don’t respect. People lose respect for the law for two reasons. First, the law is just unreasonable. Speed limits are a good example of this. Second, even if the law is reasonable people will not respect it if it is not fairly and uniformly enforced. No matter what the reason, if people don’t respect the law, it can’t ever be enforced.

      1. I think there’s an important distinction between the two. A society can tolerate widespread disobedience to a law (when a law is unreasonable). When people start turning against the law, you have a recipe for disaster.

  18. OT: from discussion in A.M. Links, official announcement that Gravity Waves have been detected:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/scienc…..t-35524440

    1. It’s all waves, dude. Mass isn’t real, reality is made up completely of overlapping and interfering energy waves.

  19. Law and legislation are not synonyms. Law is what society generally agrees upon as rules for civilized behavior. Legislation tends to come in two forms. It either tries to codify society’s laws, or it attempts to shape society’s laws. The former is just, but the latter is pure injustice. It creates a situation where people lose respect for the law in general, regardless of if the law is just or not. If the person who loses respect for the law has no moral sense, then they become a danger to society. Conversely this can cause a person to lose their moral sense and respect only the law. Those people tend to become cops.

    1. Another Bastiat reader!

      Quick! Get the secret police o’er here!

  20. There are shittons of laws on the books that nobody follows, ever. The only time those laws will be dug up is when someone needs to be made an example of. As such, that example will then be used as justification for keeping the law on the books.

  21. There have been, as far as I know, zero negative consequences for anyone involved in this.

    Which gives me no reason to believe that anything has changed.

    1. Bureaucracy means never having to say you’re sorry.

  22. Was this one of phake skanduls, or one of the racist attacks on the President?

  23. We will not tame the IRS until the libertarian/conservative establishment comes to grips with what the US INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX really is. The failure of the establishment in NFIB vs Sebelius perfectly illustrates my point. Randy Barnett and the States Attorneys General walked into the Supreme Court with the absurd argument that the Shared Responsibility Payment (Obamacare Mandate) was an unapportioned direct tax. Chief Justice Roberts completely demolished this argument by following the principles laid down by his mentor, Chief Justice Marshal, in McCullough V Maryland as to the power of federal taxation. No, the SRP was not an unapportioned direct tax, because like all federal taxes it was an indirect tax, as in fact (by implication) the US INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX is .
    Instead of understanding their error, the libertarian/conservative establishment instead accused Marshal of “judicial restraint” and called him a traitor. Nothing can be more wrong.
    Until the libertarian/conservative establishment revises its concept of the fundamental nature of the income tax and understands it is an indirect tax on privilege, which cannot reach the “right to work” of those engaged in the ordinary occupations of life, we will never rein in the IRS. see my blog…www.nontaxpayersforronpaul.blogspot

    1. Shorter libertree:

      As long as we have an income tax, we will never reign in the IRS.

  24. Obama forced out the acting commissioner of the agency

    No he didn’t. Miller had already been planning to resign months before he was “forced out.” He left exactly when he had always intended to leave, but they decided to make a big spectacle out of it in order to pretend that the administration was doing something.

  25. This is a case where I think Obama didn’t really understand the press.

    It’s not just that they love the Democrat party and shill for them, they genuinely, truly hate Republicans. Especially the Tea Party. So the press will not make a big deal of a Democratic run government doing nasty things to the Tea Party.

  26. The technology is so developed that we can watch videos, live streaming, TV serials and any of our missed programs within our mobiles and PCs. Showbox
    All we need is a mobile or PC with a very good internet connection. There are many applications by which we can enjoy videos, our missed programs, live streaming etc.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.