... it tolls for thee.
By now, everyone knows that the IRS has admitted to targeting Tea Party 501c applications for special scrutiny. Slightly less well known is that they are also being accused of improperly seizing 60 million personal medical records as well.
Yeah. It's not been a happy week for the IRS.  For the first time in ages, their public opinion numbers have dipped from "slightly more pleasant than a rabid rat gnawing on my face" levels to... well, I'm not quite sure what comes under the whole face-gnawing-rat level. I suspect pollsters going to have to dust off some imaginary numbers to accurately reflect just how your average American feels about the IRS is at this point.
Particularly since after the initial announcement, details about the IRS audits have been coming fast and furious. Oh, no, wait - that's another scandal entirely. Let's just say there's quite a lot of details, then...
- Just as a refresher, this administration has shown no qualms about targeting businesses and other organizations entirely for ideological reasons.
- They're also comfortable with going after individuals as well. Professor Anne Hendershot, a sociologist, was targeted for an IRS audit in 2010 after she wrote a series of articles, mostly in Catholic publications, that were critical of Obamacare.
- Also targeted, the conservative Leadership Institute
- ... and Smart Girl Politics. #WarOnWomen, y'all.
- .... and The Southern California Tax Revolt Coalition.
- Two different pro-life groups were reportedly told that they had to promise to not picket abortion clinics, or even more outrageously, that they would have to promote abortion. (The later, at least, was overturned.)
- As part of their non-profit approval, the IRS asked the Linchpins of Liberty educational organization to provide them with the names of all of their former students.
- Which is actually pretty tame, compared to asking an organization to detail the contents of their member's prayers.
- In other cases, the IRS demanded that organizations provide "a U-Haul truck’s worth of information" - including the minutes of business meetings, donor lists, member lists, web pages, blog posts and social media postings.
- For an unknown number of conservative organizations, the delays in the aplication process, the expense of providing demanded information, and the threat of possible criminal charges for making a mistake led them to abandon their applications entirely.
Defenders of the IRS initially claimed that a spike in conservative non-profit applications raised red flags in the IRS, and that what followed was nothing more than professional scrutiny. Really. Of course, the policies were put in place in 2010, and the "spike" the IRS claims resulted in the policy came in 2011. I had no idea that Miss Cleo was working for the IRS.
Fortunately, at least the number of cases where the IRS abused their power was limited, right? Yeah, it would be nice if that were true.
At least the abuses were limited to one particular group of bad apples in the Cincinnati office. Except that DC and California offices were involved, too.
Geeze. At least the individuals involved were just a bunch of low-level IRS employees. Of course, that's only true if in your dictionary, "low-level" means "senior".
Besides, it's not like they did anything egregiously wrong, like fast-tracking progressive applications while delaying conservatives, or turning over private data included in conservative non-profit application to political opponents. Well, no more than one political opponent, at least. I mean, that we know of.
Take heart, though. As soon as those low-level yet senior officials discovered the problem, they immediately 'fessed up. And by "immediately", of course, we mean "waited until after the presidential election". Because that's what immediately means, right?
Ah, well. Even if it their policies violate causality; even if there was a large number of cases where they abused their power; even if it spread across several different offices; even if senior officials knew about the situation; even if they did share information illegally; and even though they supressed information about their abuses for political reasons... well, you know that the White House was completely in the dark, because otherwise the Most Transparent Administration In History (TM) would have been all over the problem.
I’ve been told today by several reporters that President Obama’s White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, knew for several days — perhaps weeks —that some Internal Revenue Service officials were engaging in political targeting of conservative groups, and that she did not tell the president as soon as she knew even partial reports about the story.
Hey, now - don't let all this get you down. How about some good IRS news for a change?
Even as the politicized tax enforcement scandal expands, the Internal Revenue Service continues to expand its political powers thanks to the Affordable Care Act. A larger government always creates more openings for abuse, as Americans will learn when the IRS starts auditing their health care in addition to their 1040 next year...
To monitor compliance with these rules, the IRS and HHS are now building the largest personal information database the government has ever attempted. Known as the Federal Data Services Hub, the project is taking the IRS's own records (for income and employment status) and centralizing them with information from Social Security (identity), Homeland Security (citizenship), Justice (criminal history), HHS (enrollment in entitlement programs and certain medical claims data) and state governments (residency).
Well, yeah, I lied. At this point, really, you should have seen it coming.
So the IRS is building a single database of all the personal information it has about every person in the country. On top of that, it's not only their information. They're going to include data from a whole bunch of other government agencies, including the DHS, the DoJ, and even your state government. I'm sure they're going to turn up quite a lot of interesting correlations once they get all those data sets together in the same room.
All told, this is going to give those consummate professionals at the IRS - you know, the ones who have been systematically abusing the power they already have - the ability to audit anyone, anywhere, for any reason that might catch their fancy.
I'm sure that's going to be just peachy keen.
Well, yeah. That's sarcasm. At this point, really, you should have seen it coming.