So the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny. OK. Why is anyone surprised? This is the agency every taxpayer loves to hate.
The events of Feb. 18, 2010, may have convinced some IRS people to push back. That was the day Andrew Joseph Stack III crashed his private plane into an Austin, Texas, IRS office. I was at my own office about a mile away when it happened. I drove by that building almost every day but had no idea the IRS was inside. Then I looked out my window and saw the smoke.
Being audited by the IRS isn't pleasant for anyone, but Stack was especially angry. He set fire to his house, posted an online suicide rant, drove to the airport and flew off to create his own mini-9/11.
The results: death for Stack, death for IRS manager Vernon Hunter, numerous injuries and one less office building for Austin. Now, years later, we learn that within weeks of this incident the IRS started singling out tax-exempt applications from groups with terms like "Tea Party" and "Patriot" in their names. Coincidence?
I once had a friend who said he worked at "the Treasury Department." Months after we met, he finally confessed his employer was the IRS. He had learned quickly that an honest answer to the casual "Where do you work?" question made normal life impossible.
The investigations will reveal more about the latest allegations, but here's what I think. The IRS staff was already afraid of the people it "serves." The Stack Attack probably pushed some to retaliate in the only way they could. In their twisted logic, hassling Tea Party groups was just self-defense. If the order came from higher levels, then it's even worse.
But the worst part of all? Our insanely complicated tax system favors some people, punishes others and leaves taxpayers and tax collectors scared to death of each other. That's the real IRS scandal.
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