Thursday, June 6, 2013

Getting A Perspective on the IRS Hysteria

In a perverse way, one has to admire the always seemingly victimized Repukes for their innate ability to set off phoney outrage, brouhahas, assorted political diversions and specious scandals (e.g. Benghazi) which they insist have national security dimensions.  The latest one is the IRS issue which - to hear the Reeps tell it - has seen one of the most powerful agencies in the country singling them out for far more detailed screening of their 501(c)(4) applications - for reduced taxes to "social welfare" groups, than their political counterparts.

What a freakin' bunch of hooey! And the worst part of it is how most of the press, with few exceptions, has jumped on the Reepo outrage bandwagon without more carefully examining the facts. (One exception is Michael Grunwald's excellent essay in TIME - June 10, p. 35- 'One Nation, Tax Exempt' - asking why any charity or social welfare group would need a tax exempt status, unless it had to shelter profits. Good question!)

First, let's set the stage: under the criteria set for 501(c)(4) groups:  the degree to which they can claim tax exempt status hinges on the extent to which they are not embroiled in political opportunism, partisan political attacks and self-styled political hackery. Does anyone seriously believe the Tea Party groups qualify? Groups that have viciously attacked Obama and his administration from the get-go,  to the extent of toting loaded weapons to public meetings on his Affordable Care Act, and painting him as a Hitlerite or Nazi pond scum.

As Exhibit A,  note the photo-shopped depiction of Obama extracted from one Tea Bagger's website in the run up to last year's election. Now, can anyone with all brain cells active and with an IQ over room temperature seriously tell me that this is not only politically biased material but politically OFFENSIVE? Do you seriously believe any nimrod who would belong to a group that publishes such crap ought to receive a tax relief benefit under the IRS code? Gimme an effin' break already!

In other words, it requires no jumps in latent popular IQ to grasp why the IRS would invoke a more lengthy and detailed application form for these types of groups and people. And bear in mind again, they are obliged to scrutinize more such types specifically because of the tax code's own requirements!  But to hear the little Tea Party types whine - you'd think they had been unfairly molested. Jeezus Peace! You'd think they were all brought up on tax evasion charges or something when it was merely they're having to use a more detailed 501(c)(4) form to explain themselves!

Might the IRS have taken a document short cut and paid more attention to Tea Party brands? YEEEEESSS! So what? When one understands the extent of how IRS funding has been cut by the GOP in the last few election cycles one would grasp the need to look for high profile giveaways, like TEA PARTY - behind the name. Especially of groups that put up crap like that phoney Obama as Hitler TIME image! (And please don't interject any bollocks about the IRS' 'Star Trek' training video which cost maybe $200k and is fully understandable in an agency where probably too much of the work is tedious, boring and where a novel approach can get more results, say with new employees. If you're really about waste, go after CEOs who use inflated share money to make million dollar vids and have $15m  escapades....errrrr...'conferences'  in Vegas, complete with strippers.)

Besides which, even if the IRS spent several million on conferences, training etc. it pales besides the BILLIONS that secretive Tea Party support groups  (like Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers) want protected from Uncle Sam's taxes!  But see, when 'pukes set off this kind of hysteria, it's always the rational perspective that becomes the first casualty.

Second, regarding the hidden Tea Party support groups like Americans for Prosperity, columnist Jim Hightower has noted ('Wolves in Do-Gooder Clothing', Col. Springs Independent, p. 10):

"This privileged status (of being designated a 501(c)(4) social welfare group) would allow them to take unlimited bags of corporate cash without ever revealing to voters the names of the corporations putting up the money. The caveat is that the 501(c)(4) groups are supposed to do social welfare work and cannot be attached to any particular party - nor can politics be their primary purpose."

Did the U.S. mainstream press cover any of this? Did you hear about this side of the issue? I doubt it, not like we heard it discussed over German News networks! You likely heard no more about it than you heard of the global anti-GMO, anti- Monsanto protests.

Hightower's next point is even more salient in connection with why the IRS was duty bound to scrutinize these little peckerheads even more:

"Forget what the 501(c)(4) rule says. Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have cynically set up their own pretend social welfare groups to run secret money-election political campaigns. Suddenly, hundreds of wannabes were demanding special 501(c)(4) designation, brazenly lying about their overt political purpose, even asserting they were engaged in no political activity."

Seriously? Like the group that put up that Obama -Time Hitler image?

Next time you hear about this IRS "over stepping", please remember to roll your eyes and ask the pertinent question: WHO was it that was really targeted and WHY? And to what extent would their being granted social welfare status have harmed the rest of us?

On that note, this letter in today's Denver Post from a reader is well worth a look, in fact more than one look:

"I’ve had about enough of the GOP wailing and gnashing of teeth over this IRS thing. It should be obvious to the most casual observer that the reason mid-level managers at the IRS would look for buzzwords indicating the far right is that they were tasked with identifying organizations applying for tax exempt status for which they were not eligible.

Who do you think constituted the bulk of such applications? Obviously, the Tea Party, in all its iterations. Have you heard of any new left-wing organizations lately? I don’t think we, the people, should have to subsidize political speech by anyone, and that’s exactly what this is. There are no Tea Party “social welfare” organizations, and we all know it. It’s time for the GOP to back off and let the IRS do its job, a job it was obviously doing very well, indeed." - Pete Lister,

Bingo, Mr. Lister! You were smart and savvy enough to nail it! Maybe others will in time.

Footnote: A recent sub-kerfuffle has erupted over a putative change in language in the 501(c)(4) code from "exclusively" (i.e. social welfare groups having to exclusively operate in that purview) to "primarily". The latter has been noted by the new IRS commissioner to be applicable to the "implementation" of the reg, whereas the former word is in the original law. While this inconsistency definitely needs to be removed, it doesn't change the fact that Tea Party groups, organizations still wouldn't qualify since we know - as the letter writer points out- none of them meet even the lowly "primary" social welfare standard. In other words, the IRS - despite the change in lingo- was still justified in applying a higher level of scrutiny for the TeePees applying for tax exemption under 501(c)(4).

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