Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Going To The Dogs

Yesterday, we focused on the fact that whatever Republicans claim the problem is, their biggest problem is themselves - and that hasn't somehow miraculously changed in the last 24 hours. Republicans are still giving unprecendented levels of obstruction, as Greg Sargent accurately points out.

That said, just because the extremists in the Republican Party are the second biggest political obstacle to progress for our nation right now - second only to the nearly unregulated money in our political system - doesn't mean that organizations like the IRS are without fault. It's just not the kind of fault Republican extremists are desperately wishing for.

In fact, when Republicans began spinning the hype about the IRS scandals three weeks ago, as Steve Benen noted back then, many in both media and politics thought this IRS mess would likely end with a massive GOP overreach - in part because nobody likes the IRS, so who's going to defend them? Between the frustration of audits, and the possible penalties most Americans needlessly fear - everything from wage garnishment to jail - it's not exactly like Americans are predisposed to love our federal tax collection agency.

Sure enough, as Benen reiterated yesterday, this is exactly what scandalmania overreach looks like.

As we've pointed out more than once over the last month - and as leading Republican (and current Air Force Reserve JAG lawyer) Sen. Lindsey Graham strongly agreed with Monday - there is absolutely NO evidence that President Obama or anyone at the White House directed the IRS to target tea party and right-wing groups.

That fact still didn't at all stop the whine fest on Tuesday when extremist GOP nuts in the House rolled out the tissues and the red carpet for teabaggers to bawl and display their persecution complex in front of members of Congress. Unsurprisingly, no one at the hearing brought up the fact that all of the tea party groups were actually involved in politics, which - by federal statute - means they are not eligible for the 501c4 status they all currently retain, and that the IRS should have denied to any politically affiliated group.

So after nearly a month of these 'shoot first, ask questions later' dog-eared committee hearings, what is it that we've actually learned?

To start with, it appears the IRS mess happened because those people running the IRS very good at details - an oxymoron if we've ever heard one.

We've also discovered that the IRS has NOT been following a federal law regarding 501c4 tax exemptions since 1959! Instead, the IRS has been relying on its own internal rule that allows organizations that are "primarily" involved in social welfare to get the tax exemption. That's instead of following the law as it's written, by only giving the 501c4 tax exemption - and its associated donor anonymity - to groups that are EXCLUSIVELY involved in social welfare, and not at all involved in anything else, including politics.

The splashiest - though probably most embarrassing - thing Congress has discovered that the IRS has been guilty of came out this week: That the IRS spent $49 million on 225 employee conferences and other personnel 'moral boosters' between 2010 and 2012, including over $50,000 on a Star Trek parody movie.

What the hearings haven't discovered is any kind of Nixonian plot to go after only tea party extremists.

Instead, these hearings have served the GOP priorities of giving Fox & right-wing radio something to yowl about, while wasting even more taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, issues like the looming increase on student loan interest and the ongoing sequester continue to take a bite out the American people.

We'd say it's not just the IRS that's going to the dogs… but we think you're probably already aware of that.