It's that time of the year when a young man's fancy turns to ...his tax return. "Tax season," as it is called. Baseball should have a season, mating should have a season, but, when tax has a season, something is seriously wrong. Guest-hosting for Rush on Monday, I took a call from Patricia in Indiana, who's just received notice from the IRS that she's going to be audited for her 2013 taxes. Which she hasn't filed yet. Because they're not due until April 15th.
So she's being preemptively pre-audited. It's like the tax collector's version of Philip K Dick's "thought crime": Just in case she's thinking of claiming a refund in a month's time, they need to nip it in the bud now. What could possibly set off such alarm bells? Patricia said she and her husband had an entirely normal, boring tax profile - but they had made a small donation to Mitt Romney. Next it will be the TSA showing up at the door for your secondary patdown even though you've no plans to fly anywhere.
The IRS is corrupt, and should be abolished, and replaced by an agency with far fewer powers. Instead, Republicans dither ineffectually. In Congress last week, IRS fall girl Lois Lerner took the Fifth again. That's her right, of course, and very prudent given the malicious and selective prosecutions of a corrupt Justice Department. But in my column below I quote Walter Williams observing that every single US tax-filer signs away his Fifth Amendment rights every April 15th. My piece was written last May, when the scandal broke. It ended with some advice that self-respecting American citizens ought to try the Lois Lerner Defense when the IRS comes a-callin'. Ten months on, it's more pertinent than ever:
We have the president of the United States' word as a gentleman that he knew nothing about the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of his enemies until he "learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this."
Furthermore, although the commissioner of the IRS, Douglas Shulman, visited Obama's White House no fewer than 157 times, which is 156 times more than his predecessor Mark Everson ever visited the White House, we know that this was for legitimate Easter-egg rolls, as he testified to Congress, and meetings to discuss Obamacare. The Easter Bunny, one should note, visits the White House two to four times as often as the average IRS commissioner did before Mr. Shulman came along. But you can't make a health-care omelet without breaking Easter eggs: It is one of the many distinctive features of Obama-style "health" "care" "reform" that, while it has not led to the hiring of a single additional doctor, nurse, or hospital janitor, it did require the biggest expansion of the IRS since the Second World War. So, when he wasn't rolling Easter eggs and advising the moppets on whether they needed to declare the luxury Belgian white chocolate balls with praline filling, he was participating in vital meetings on how many extra SWAT teams he was going to need to enforce the new colonoscopy non-compliance penalty.
Let us also overlook the excellent treatment received from the IRS by members of the president's family. Although acting commissioner Steven Miller apologized for the "horrible customer service" conservative taxpayers had gotten, a gentleman by the name of Malik Obama received impeccable, express service when he took the precaution of mailing in his non-profit application from N'giya, Kenya, rather than notoriously slower mail processing centers such as Phoenix and Dallas. Malik, the brother of President Obama, runs the Barack H. Obama Foundation, named for the president's father. On May 30, 2011, they applied for tax-exempt status, and had their approval signed less than a month later by Lois Lerner herself, and conveniently backdated by Lois to cover the two-and-a-half years the enterprising Malik had already been raking in "tax-deductible" donations from Americans. The Washington address of the Barack H. Obama Foundation appears to be bogus, and it's not clear whether the funds are being used back in Kenya for anything other than supporting the famously lavish lifestyle of Malik and his twelve wives. Given that the IRS is not shy about asking American conservatives for Facebook posts and lists of who attends their meetings, Ms. Lerner surely would have been within her rights to ask Malik Obama about the "exclusive" photographs currently displayed on the Barack H. Obama Foundation website of a recent meeting in Sudan, one of only four countries the U.S. government designates as a "terrorist state," and the Foundation's apparently extensive association with the Sudanese president and blood-soaked genocidal war criminal Omar al-Bashir. Given that the IRS likes to ask conservative taxpayers whether their friends and relatives are planning on running for office, Ms. Lerner might like to ask Malik Obama when his friend President Bashir is planning on leaving office. After another quarter million corpses?
Whatever. Let's take it as read that, when U.S. taxpayers wind up giving tax breaks to an entity linked to the butchers of Darfur, it's pure coincidence that the racket turns out to be run by the president's brother. Let's accept that Malik Obama just got lucky that his letter landed on the desk of Lois Lerner, and that, when she backdated his application for two-and-a-half years, she'd momentarily forgotten that it's illegal for her to backdate it more than two-and-a-quarter years. Indeed, let's take the president at his word that the existence of this shadowy IRS entity working deep within the even shadowier U.S. Treasury planted in deep cover within the shadowiest conspiracy of them all, this murky hitherto unknown organization called "the Executive Branch," that all this was news to him. What that means then is not that this or that elected politician is corrupt but that the government of the United States is corrupt.
There seems to be ever more evidence for that. Every day brings revelations that the IRS conservative crackdown went way beyond the Tea Party. McClatchy Newspapers reports that a woman known only as "Ms. Richards" in the Cincinnati office of the IRS told Coalition for Life of Iowa that their application for nonprofit status could only be approved if they signed a letter promising not to picket in front of Planned Parenthood. Mark Drabik, a military veteran, became politically active and started giving to conservative groups only to have the IRS challenge his church donations. Catherine Engelbrecht founded True the Vote to protect ballot integrity, and within a few months her family's business, farm, and personal taxes had all attracted IRS audits. Hundreds and hundreds of groups were consigned to the purgatory of "pending" — a term for IRS customers not as favored as Malik Obama can stretch leisurely from six months to ten to twenty to thirty, and beyond. When the most lavishly funded government on the planet comes after you, eventual guilt or innocence is irrelevant: The process is the punishment.
I am an immigrant to this great land, and I love it, but I will make a small observation from my years in the United States which I hope won't be taken the wrong way: Like citizens of almost all Western democracies in the 21st century, Americans are overly deferential to bureaucracy, but, in my observation, they are uniquely fearful of the state's tax collectors to a degree I have never seen with Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs in London or equivalent agencies in Paris, Ottawa, Rome, Canberra. The IRS has, in American terms, extraordinary powers. It was, for example, amusing to see Lois Lerner plead the Fifth Amendment and exercise her constitutional right not to put herself at risk of self-incrimination. As the great Walter Williams pointed out the other day, every single American waives his Fifth Amendment rights every time he signs that tax return on April 15. Americans are fearless if some guy pulls some stunt in a shopping mall, but an IRS assault is brutal and unending. Many activists faded away, and the media began writing stories about how the Tea Party had peaked; they were over; they wouldn't be a factor in 2012. And so it proved. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out the other day, the plan worked.
But, of course, there was no plan, was there? So let's take Obama at his word that he had no idea all this was going on. In that case, he might like to take the lead in calling for the abolition of a corrupt agency and its grotesque tax code, and their replacement by a bureaucracy with more limited powers commensurate with a free society and a simplified tax regime with lower rates and thus fewer bewildering, mercurial "exemptions" that make the citizenry dependent on the caprices of Ms. Lerner and her colleagues. That's a prize worth fighting for. In the meantime, the next time the IRS call you up with demands for this and demands for that, simply tell them, "I am filing the Lois Lerner defense," and then say as she did to Congress "I have not done anything wrong. And I will not answer any questions." Every man his own Lois Lerner!
Comment on this item (members only)
Viewing and submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here: