If baseball, hot dogs and apple pie represent the warm and fuzzy side of American culture, the Internal Revenue Service must be the cold, prickly side.
With all due respect to the nation’s tax collection agency, how we love to loathe it.
Consider the national outrage stemming from the IRS’ recent admission that taxpayers who made reference to terms like “tea party” and “patriot” were singled out for auditing.
Those hoping such a powerful enforcement arm of government would be mindful of taxpayers’ rights should pay attention to the agency’s indifferent response to public outcry – little more than an elaborate, “Whoops, my bad.”
Rather than hone in on the violation itself, conservative politicians have seized the headlines in an attempt to add yet one more to the growing list of White House scandals.
The notion that the conservative witch hunt was carried out with the President’s implicit approval is as ridiculous as the suggestion that politicians opposing gun control have no regard for victims of gun violence. That is merely the mating call for partisan politicians.
If you’re wondering how any of this debacle is relevant to this column, I’m almost there.
The thought process behind the IRS shenanigans is eerily familiar. The purpose of the errant IRS employees was to exploit any correlation between certain identifiers (i.e. tea pot and patriot) and the likelihood of tax fraud. That shortcut is much easier than completing the hard work needed for a tax fraud investigation.
There is a word for such a lazy approach to one’s profession. It’s commonly known as profiling.
When it became clear, years ago, that some police officers were basing their stops on an individual’s ethnicity, profiling quickly became synonymous with the abuse of power. That was an accurate assessment of the practice, but fortunately law enforcement officers have learned to articulate justifiable reasons for detaining individuals suspected of criminal activity.
The IRS example is no different. When an agent decides to audit a taxpayer based solely on an assumed political preference, that is a shameful abuse of power, a violation of rights and constitutes profiling in its basic form.
Thanks to politicians and the media, this scandal has already devolved to Beltway gamesmanship. That is a costly redirection, because when citizens fail to recognize and reject profiling in its many forms, it simply disappears back into the machinery.
If we are to ensure constitutional freedoms equally, we will need to turn our attention back to the lazy subculture within our nation’s tax collecting agency and guarantee that profiling is never again used as an enforcement tool.
The IRS is already painfully aware of taxpayers’ irrational ire. We don’t need legitimate reasons to dislike it.