When most Americans are preparing and filing their tax forms, the IRS has been making dubious headlines at a record pace.
On April 12, 2014, IRS agents were revealed as violating the Hatch Act, a law which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities in the work place. Lois Lerner’s case has been referred by the House Ways and Means Committee to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation. The Minority Ranking Member in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings’ office has become embroiled in scandal for staff being in contact with Lois Lerner’s office putting pressure on a non-profit conservative group True the Vote. Cummings has advocated vigorously against investigation of Lois Lerner and her office’s targeting of conservative groups seeking non-profit status. And Lois Lerner has been held in contempt of Congress for pleading the Fifth after both making a statement to the House Oversight Committee and giving detailed information to the Justice Department off the record.
This has added to the already tense investigation. On January 9, 2014, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) sent a letter requesting that the investigator be removed and an impartial one be appointed. They point out that the current investigator, Ms. Barbara Bosserman, who is a Department of Justice trial lawyer, was a donor to President Obama’s election campaign.
The contempt charge was made along party lines. As an American first, political party affiliate second, I am disappointed in the Democrats voting against a contempt charge, and obstructing the investigation. The sanctity of the public trust in the IRS should supersede party loyalties. We must have full faith and confidence in the tax collecting authority.
Why is it vital to have faith in the IRS? Because the IRS receives confidential income information, and soon will receive confidential health information. The IRS has virtually unlimited enforcement power in their area of authority. The moral case must be made – we must be able to trust that regardless of the party in power, our information is sacred and our IRS is beyond reproach.
An argument often made is that our tax system is an honor system, and without faith in the IRS, massive tax evasion will take place. I haven’t found this argument very persuasive yet, because Americans by and large, follow the law, and trust the government. We are not a nation of tax evaders – it’s not part of the culture.
But if the IRS does lose its credibility, then what will the consequences be, both for the national debt and the obligatory spending many count on? Americans will probably demand a restructuring of the IRS or the tax code, and ultimately we may lose the IRS. There are many employees who are blameless and face tremendous uncertainty if their positions are expunged. No, the core issue is the full faith and confidence we extend to the IRS and to the many personnel who go to work every day, and execute their job faithfully.
Lastly, Americans must be able to have faith in our government. We have prided ourselves on being the shining light, a beacon to other nations. Our image, though tarnished in the last decade, has inspired confidence and hope in the world at large. We need to remain worthy of that image. And the IRS is the one common thread we all have. It must remain sacred. I would urge all congressional members, the Justice Department, and the administration, to leave no stone unturned in a thorough, public investigation. If it turns out there was no wrong-doing, we will at least be a stronger nation for not turning a blind eye to the heavy allegations. Such an approach would reflect dignity upon those who take up this charge.