I spent last evening watching on C-Span the House Oversight Committee eviscerate the former commissioner of the IRS, Douglas Shulman.
Both Republicans and Democrats took turns sanctimoniously judging Shulman and trying with all the drama of a courtroom trial of some grotesque murderer to humiliate and destroy the man.
The Republicans of course love this kind of stuff. Their questioning bordered on hysteria and orgasmic delight. Most of it was complete buffoonery; as usual. And the Democrats, who never miss a chance to hold hands with Republican fanatics and support them in their derangement, joined right in. They always do this if they think doing so will impress someone out there in the voting public who thinks Democrats are passive sissies. But of course no one is ever impressed by this display of phony outrage.
Having a brain and being an intelligent, rational presence seems lost on all of those on this committee. With the exception of Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who suggested that this whole mess started because of the Supreme Court’s horribly flawed Citizens United decision which allows corporations and other groups to financially support political candidates of their choice without limits to fundraising or spending. Connolly noted that once that happened the IRS offices were all inundated with endless groups wanting tax exemption status in order to raise funds for candidates. Although there were progressive groups included most of the new groups represented conservative voters. No extra staff was provided to assist IRS agents and there was no training offered to help them navigate the murkiness of a process highly complicated by Citizens United. As a result, some mistakes may have been made.
Frankly, though, I don’t see a problem here. I think the IRS people in the Cincinnati office were doing their job the best way they could. The “list” of groups that has everyone so stirred up has not in any way been proven to be some kind of conspiracy list to deny Tea Party or other radical groups from getting tax free status. The agents were simply making sure there was justification for such a status. That is their job. And all of us should be glad they were doing it.
This is nothing but politics. Sheer, unadulterated, lousy, dysfunctional politics.
If the IRS office in Cincinnati is somehow at fault here and if the department and agency managers were negligent in some way by not providing more training or direction, then okay; let’s try to find ways to fix those problems. But why turn this into some kind of cataclysmic horror and criminal offense as if the IRS is secretly and systematically out to destroy some right wing group? There is no proof of that at all. And as Douglas Shulman said, every single one of those groups whose tax exemption status was delayed was still able to exist, function, raise money, spend money and support whatever candidate they wanted while waiting to hear from the IRS. There may have been delays but no group was denied anything.
If some segment of our government is at risk of mismanagement or unfair treatment of citizens, then it is time for good judgment by Congress and other officials, not hasty panic and immediate efforts to smear an entire agency as corrupt and villainous.
Tagore, the Indian mystic and poet, once said that we often read the world in the wrong way and then say we have been deceived by it. Our deception is our own making. We see things we want to see and believe things we want to believe and stick to that without seriously searching for truth.
There is an addiction to wrongness in other people in this country and it exists in its worst form in Washington, D.C. Many of us copy their disturbing pathology and the whole nation suffers as a result.
When we cling to beliefs we have no interest in questioning or examining, it leaves us unavailable to hear anything new. The consequences of that are entrenched battles of flawed ideology and mostly nonsense.
There are these lines from Tennyson’s “Ulysses” – “The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, ‘tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
If only we would climb out of this dark abyss of mistrust and hate and do that instead.
© 2013 Timothy Moody