Michael Tomasky wrote a good summary of the recent news about the IRS non-scandal at The Daily Beast, The Nature of the Beast: the Breathless Press and the Phony IRS “Scandal.” (What is wrong with editors? It wasn’t necessary to put scare quotes around “scandal” when “phony” precedes it.) Like most liberal commentators, he still focuses too much on how this “scandal” (see what I did?) had nothing to do with the White House. To me, that question was settled a long time ago: at the beginning since there was never any evidence that what the IRS was doing was led by the White House. Actually, there was lots of evidence that is wasn’t. I’m more interested in the fact that this isn’t even a scandal in terms of the IRS targeting conservative groups. And Tomasky provides lots of details about that.
But there does seem to be a scandal here. It looks as though the Treasury Department inspector general Russell George politicized his report. What he delivered to Darrell Issa was exactly what the conservative propagandists were looking for: something that said that the IRS (conservatives’ most hated institution) were targeting conservative groups. There were no liberal groups targeted. And all those Obama sycophants at the IRS may not have been taking orders from the White House, but they knew what needed to be done. That’s how Obama won re-election, because as all conservatives know, Obama is hated by the “real” America. The only way he won was by the IRS efforts to stopping Tea Party groups and ACORN (which of course was long out of business) efforts to commit voter fraud.
I don’t even think that George and Issa are being disingenuous. True believing conservatives just know that the Democratic Party must be even more corrupt than the Republican Party. And if that were true, it would indeed make the Democrats very corrupt. This is what comes of creating a whole insular conservative media where no mainstream facts can penetrate. The whole question of truth becomes an exercise in mythology. “Liberals have horns, or so I’ve heard from other conservatives who claim to have talked to people who have seen them.” But one would expect better from an inspector general and a sitting Representative.
There are three specific issues about George’s report. First, he did not report an analysis of 5,500 IRS email messages that showed that there was no indication that the behavior was politically motivated. Second, George claimed that “progressive” and “occupy” were never used to flag groups the way that “tea party” was. That is simply untrue. And third, none of the witnesses have done anything but push back against George’s report.
Russell George is set to talk to Issa’s committee today. But this time, it is the Democrats who are on the offensive. It will be interesting to see what he has to say. I expect him to give some variation on, “The preponderance of the evidence was blah, blah, blah.” Not that it will matter. The Republicans have gotten everything out of this scandal they can. The media has been really helpful in pushing the idea that the Democratic Party, the White House, and the IRS are corrupt institutions. At best, there may be a short story on the nightly news about how it turns out that the IRS did nothing wrong and there was nothing political going on. But even that is unlikely. “There was nothing to the story we hyped for a couple of months” is not a compelling headline. And here is a Ted Cruz ad that is running right now on television:
It makes me wonder: will the mainstream press ever see through the continual parade of false scandals by the Republican Party? I know one thing: they will not stop until the Democratic Party stops falling for this right wing propaganda. When the story first broke, I wrote, Obama Wimps Out on IRS Scandal. I was (And still am!) mad about the firing of acting IRS chief Steven T. Miller for nothing other than the fact that Republicans were claiming something had happened. It was Shirley Sherrod all over again. The administration can’t take even a tiny bit of political heat; they just fire people before any of the facts come in. And that is what is truly messed up in American politics. A two party system doesn’t work when one of those parties is all backbone (that is: no higher brain function) and the other is none.
Note that Ted Cruz in his “abolish the IRS” commercial is pushing the flat tax. I’ve had countless conversations with conservatives about this. They really like the idea of a flat tax. But they begin to dislike it when I explain to them how their taxes will go way up. Of course, the information never sticks; conservatives are very much like EPROMs: you can program them with correct information, but Fox News comes on, erases the programming and puts incorrect information back on. But really, this isn’t difficult. How do people think that there can be a major overhaul of the tax code that is going to lower everyone’s taxes? And why do they think that the rich are so keen on the flat tax? It isn’t because they mind paying accountants to do their taxes. It is that they would pay less—generally far less. The most honest flat tax proposal was by half billionaire Steve Forbes who offered a 17% tax. Do you now pay 17% in federal income taxes off your gross income? If not, your taxes are going up. But the wealthy? Their taxes would go down. His tax would be 0% on all capital gains and other unearned income. So if you earn your money, you are taxed, but if you just live off daddy’s trust fund, you are not. Fairness!