In the classic film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s diminutive dog Toto pulls back the curtain in the Emerald City to reveal the Wizard is nothing but a grand illusion. The Wizard uses smoke, mirrors and high tech equipment to appear larger than life, all knowing and omnipresent.
Some members of the Tea Party, and the final few members of the media who haven’t completely abdicated their media credentials, must feel like Toto this week with the disclosure of the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. Indeed this has been a bad week for the Administration, with the Benghazi attack and AP phone tapping issues coming to the fore. But nothing resonates as quickly or as viscerally with the American public as revelations that the IRS is crawling up the pant legs of Americans like a horde of fire ants.
We know from Watergate lore that President Nixon used the IRS to target groups on the left. What we may not remember is that Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and even Bill Clinton also used the IRS to target groups they deemed in opposition to their agenda. Remember the “vast right wing conspiracy?” There seems to be a pretty consistent theme that has developed over the last 70 or so years: an expanding federal government uses its investigative and tax powers to quash dissent.
A lot of my liberal friends chide me for the “divisive” and “uncooperative” nature of the Tea Party and its “horrible” influence on the country’s politics. They have been oddly silent this week. I’m wondering how they’d feel if the horde of IRS fire ants were crawling up the pant leg of their favorite charity, non-governmental agency or liberal public policy organization.
The revelations of this week will also have a direct impact on one (potentially the only) signature piece of legislation the President has ever passed, the Affordable Health Care Act. To “enforce” the new law, the IRS is slated to add almost 2,000 new employees. There are almost 50 “major” changes to the IRS Code to implement the new law. The IRS Inspector General calls those changes “the largest set of tax law changes the IRS has had to implement in more than 20 years.”
What could be more troubling? The IRS is establishing a sophisticated databases to “monitor compliance” with the AHCA. Working in concert with federal departments (Social Security, Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services) and state governments, the IRS is establishing the “Federal Data Services Hub” to verify identity, residency, employment, income, criminal history and enrollment in entitlement programs.
Please, someone go fetch Toto. I’ll put the water on. Looks like we’ll need more tea.