PHILLIPS: An opportunity to abolish the IRS

Public opinion is ready to eliminate this temptation of presidents

The news that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted Tea Party and conservative groups has come as a huge shock to Republicans. “How could this happen,” Republican lawmakers have wailed. Democrats, however, are only upset that Tea Party groups fought back and that the IRS‘ actions were exposed.

For the Republicans, the fact this happened should not be a great shock. This is the normal course of events when Democrats and even some Republicans are in charge.

In the 1990s, the IRS was routinely used to audit enemies of Bill Clinton. After Judicial Watch filed more than 50 lawsuits against the Clinton administration, senior IRS official Paul Breslan reportedly told the organization when it was audited, “What do you expect when you sue the president?”

Judicial Watch’s response to Mr. Breslan is a mystery, but a good start would have been to remind him that no one is above the law and that the Constitution allows Americans to petition for redress of grievances.

The Obama administration has used the IRS against its enemies. President Clinton used the IRS against his enemies, as well. In the ‘90s, conservatives used to joke that if the Clinton IRS had not audited you, you weren’t a real conservative. Nixon used the IRS against his enemies, while John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson did, too. So did Dwight D. Eisenhower and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The list of presidents who did not abuse the powers of the IRS against political opponents is probably shorter than those who did.

Most Americans see this abuse as a normal course of business, not as the exception.

Congress is demanding hearings as public outrage mounts. Then it will be back to business as usual until we find out the next president is using the IRS to target his enemies.

If the IRS were a private company and committed this kind of abuse on a routine basis, grand juries would be convened and the media would demand the executives be frogmarched out in a perp walk. Why are we not demanding the same of the IRS?

There are many good arguments for replacing income-based taxes with consumption taxes, but perhaps the best now is that it would mean the end of IRS tyranny. Then the agency could no longer badger and intimidate citizens simply because they oppose the current government.

Our Founding Fathers would be appalled by the power this agency has to intimidate normal, everyday citizens, and they would be calling for revolt if they saw the way a president used it against his opponents.

The abuse of power we are seeing from the IRS is not unique to that organization. The believers in big government, whether they are liberal elected officials or liberal civil service government employees, are the problem.

Big-government believers adhere to a doctrine that government exists to help the friends of the left and punish those who oppose them.

Liberty and big government are adversaries in a zero-sum game. By definition, one cannot expand without the other retreating. With the expansion of big government, such as that shown by the IRS, we are witnessing a radical reduction of freedom in America.

There are few things that terrify average, everyday Americans. One of them is an IRS audit. There is an old joke that says, “We are the IRS. We’ve got what it takes to take what you’ve got.”

No American should live in fear of a government agency the way Americans live in fear of the IRS. No agency should have the power to intimidate American citizens simply on the basis of their political beliefs, but the IRS can. Reforming the agency might be an option if this were the first time its power had been misused. Unfortunately, history shows us that any given administration is more likely than not to wield the IRS against its opponents.

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