The ongoing scandal concerning the IRS’s targeting conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status shows just how close conservatives are to liberals and how far they are from libertarians.
It has come to light that the IRS singled out conservative organizations that included the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, has admitted as much. The additional IRS scrutiny included organizations involved in “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” Inappropriate and intimidating IRS investigation tactics included asking questions about organizations’ board members, officers, employees, and donors, as well as providing lists of “all issues important to your organization” with requests to “indicate your position regarding each issue.”
Republican consultant Karl Rove maintained that the IRS scrutiny was instigated by congressional Democrats. But when Carl Levin, a Senate Democrat, wrote several letters to the IRS last year regarding groups “exploiting our tax code by organizing as tax-exempt ‘social welfare’ groups and then spending tens of millions of undisclosed dollars on political campaigns,” he cited a dozen 501(c)(4) groups, both liberal and conservative.
House Speaker John Boehner says it is “inconceivable” that Barack Obama wouldn’t know about the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups. But Obama has called the intentional targeting of such groups “outrageous” and “contrary to our traditions.”
Conservatives, understandably, were a little more upset than the president.
Republican member of Congress and head of the Tea Party Caucus, Michele Bachmann, invoked Chief Justice John Marshall’s “The power to tax is the power to destroy” axiom at a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol. She should know, since she is a former IRS lawyer.
Since members of Congress (of both parties) think that legislation is the answer to everything, it comes as no surprise that Republicans have already introduced the “Taxpayer Nondiscrimination & Protection Act” in the Senate (S.941) and House (H.R.1950) to “prevent discriminatory misconduct against taxpayers by Federal officers and employees.”
Republican Senator and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz went a step further. He publicly said to Obama by means of Twitter shortly after the IRS scandal broke, “Mr. President, if your #1 priority is fixing the problem, let’s abolish the IRS and ensure it NEVER happens again!” Sounds good on the surface, but using libertarian rhetoric does not a libertarian make.
In an interview on Fox, Cruz explained what he really meant by abolishing the IRS:
I think we ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax where the average American can fill out taxes on a postcard. Put down how much you earn, put down a deduction for charitable contributions, home mortgage, and how much you owe. It ought to be a simple one-page postcard, and take the agents, the bureaucracy out of Washington and limit the power of government.
Notice what Senator Cruz did not say. Unlike Ron Paul, he did not say that we should abolish the IRS and replace it with nothing. He did not say that it was none of the government’s business how much you earned, how much you donated to charity, or how much interest you paid on your home mortgage. He did not say that Americans should owe no taxes. He did not say that the Sixteenth Amendment should be repealed. He did not say that the power of the government to tax should be limited. He did not say that the income tax should be abolished. He did not say that taxation was theft.
This is why I ask: Where is the conservative outrage over the IRS?
Oh, conservatives may express concern over the waste of the taxpayers’ money at the IRS, the bureaucracy of the IRS, the power of the IRS, the politicization of the IRS, the nature of the taxes the IRS collects, the complexity of the IRS’s tax code, and the way the IRS grants tax-exempt status, but rarely, if ever, express any concern at all over the IRS’s collecting taxes from Americans to begin with.
When Cruz said that “the IRS has not honored its trust with the American people,” he was saying the same thing that Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said when he appeared before the House Appropriations Committee and acknowledged that the IRS “undermined the public’s trust” when its employees singled out for extra scrutiny conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status.
That is because Cruz, like the vast majority of conservatives, has no problem with the income tax per se. Conservatives have no philosophical objection to the income tax — or any other kind of tax.
Just like liberals, conservatives are not opposed to taxes on principle. Both groups fully support the federal government’s imposing trillions of dollars in taxes on the American people to maintain the welfare/warfare state. As Jacob Hornberger has explained, “The left-right debate in America over income-tax policy assumes the continued existence of the welfare-warfare state way of life, along with the continued existence of the income tax that funds this way of life.” Thus, it is no surprise that even conservative stalwarts such as Ted Cruz want to “strengthen Social Security and Medicare to preserve the benefits for existing seniors and to enact fundamental reform to ensure that those programs remain strong and vital for generations to come.”
And just like liberals, conservatives support fines, imprisonment, threats of violence, or worse for those who don’t pay their “fair share” of taxes. The real IRS scandal, as Lew Rockwell has said, “is that they steal your money at the point of a gun — and they’re doing more and more of it right now — not that they question some conservative group’s tax exemption.”
Libertarians alone focus on the real issue. The tax code doesn’t need to be reformed; it needs to be eliminated. Income taxes don’t need to be made flatter, fairer, or simpler; they need to be abolished.
It is not just religious, nonprofit, and “social welfare” organizations that should be eligible for tax-exempt status. All organizations, businesses, and individuals in America should be exempt from the government’s transferring a portion of their wealth, profits, or income to government agencies and bureaucrats to be redistributed, used for nefarious purposes, wasted, or simply destroyed.