The IRS and You
Comedians recently have been having quite the time over the current situation with the Internal Revenue Service. My favorite comes from Jay Leno: “The latest scandal in Washington, of course, is raising questions about the IRS. You know, I have a question. Why is it called the Internal Revenue Service? How is having your money confiscated a service?” Later on Leno goes after former IRS Commissioner Steve Miller who said, regarding the targeting accusations, “Mistakes were made, but they were in no way made with a political or partisan motivation.” The punch line here being, “Yeah, ‘mistakes were made’ – try saying that during your next IRS audit.” If our current position was not so embarrassing, the things IRS officials are saying would really be laughable.
Last week we recapped the events comprising this scandal at the IRS. Now we will analyze. There are two prevailing points of view on this issue. On one hand, President Obama and his followers call this a “phony scandal” which the Republicans have concocted in hopes of gaining the upper hand in November’s election. On the other are myself and other likeminded Americans who are deeply concerned about this government overreach we have seen inside the walls of America’s most despised government institution.
Lois Lerner admitted that IRS employees had developed a set of criteria that singled out conservative organizations and testimonials prove these applications were improperly scrutinized. Despite this truth, President Obama has said that there is not a “smidgen” of corruption within the IRS. The Internal Revenue Service has been and will likely forever be one of the least trusted and most intrusive agencies in the United States government. Mr. President, your decision to deny such a problem certainly does not help your credibility.
In the past few months, another character has been inserted into this circus act that is becoming the United States government. He is the new IRS Commissioner and his name is John Koskinen. See, there is an ongoing investigation into the targeting quandary the IRS is finding itself in. As we have already established, Ms. Lerner is at the center is this investigation. Two years of what are believed to be pertinent emails between Ms. Lerner and her associates have disappeared. Her hard drive crashed, but it remains to be discovered whether the crash was intentional, indicating criminal activity, or whether it was a technological failure.
I am certain there are hundreds of computers in the IRS building in which Lerner worked. Of these hundreds, the one containing the information investigators are looking for has effectively erased itself. No matter your ideology, it is perfectly legitimate to raise questions of this mysterious disappearance. And let’s not forget about 6 other individuals under investigation whose hard drives also strangely crashed.
The IRS expects Americans to keep accurate records of their financial activity for several years but they cannot keep accurate records for themselves. One missing receipt that officials deem pertinent can turn an individual’s life upside down but they cannot keep electronic messages that are pertinent to this investigation of corruption.
I sure hope the Republicans find nothing criminal in this investigation, but the failure to be forthcoming from IRS officials is hardly encouraging. Between burying valuable information in multi-page documents and the smug look on Commissioner Koskinen’s face during his testimony on Capitol Hill last week, I reject any assertion that this is a “phony scandal.” What is happening at the IRS is significant. Koskinen’s arrogance and the seeming incompetence of the Obama Administration to effectively handle these scandals is one of the most discouraging things I have seen in politics.
Folks, this is what happen when elections are won on emotion rather than substance.
MONDAY’S SUPREME COURT RULINGS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court handed down two significant decisions on Monday. Both of these, with other recent decisions, reign in government power by limiting its reach into our lives.
The first decision on Monday was in the case of Harris v. Quinn, Governor of Illinois. Ms. Harris took to the courts to fight SEIU Health Care Illinois and Indiana, the exclusive union representative for those employed by Illinois’ Rehabilitation Program (the Home Services Program within Illinois state government which allows Medicaid recipients who would normally need institutional care to hire a personal assistant to provide homecare services. This union entered into collective-bargaining agreements with the State that required all unit members (Rehabilitation Program employees) who chose not to join the union to pay fees to cover the cost of certain activities. The Court considered the question of whether or not the First Amendment “permits a State to compel personal care providers to subsidize speech on matters of public concern by a union that they do not wish to join or support.” The Court holds that the First Amendment does not permit such action, a victory for those not wishing to join unions.
The second decision, one of the most anticipated in the last decade, was the case of Burwell, Health and Human Services Secretary v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The question in this case was whether or not the United States government, by virtue of the Affordable Care Act, could force corporations to comply with government mandates that violate their religious convictions. President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services attempted to force Hobby Lobby to provide contraception care in their employee’s health care despite the corporation’s convictions that some of the mandated contraception drugs are essentially for abortion.
In a 5-4 vote, the Justices ruled that HHS has no authority to compel “closely held” corporations (this means, among others, family owned corporations) to act against their religious convictions pursuant to the Constitution. The Court rejected the notion that when owners of a company decide to organize as corporations, they forfeit protections from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Rather, the Court ruled that HHS can not substantially burden the free exercise of religion.
With these two and other rulings from last week, I am encouraged by the actions of the Supreme Court. Our Founders created a system of government with checks and balances to ensure healthy power distribution. The last several days have shown the Court exercising its authority to keep President Obama in line as the justices have effectively said that the President may not rule our nation by his “pen and phone” but must respect and adhere to the Constitution and its limits on his power.