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Putting a face on IRS tragedy

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Feb. 28, 2010 at 5:00 am with 5 Comments »
February 26, 2010 2:40 pm

Vernon Hunter and wife Valerie
Some of the online comments – on our Web site and others – have been truly insensitive in the aftermath of the attack on the Internal Revenue Service office in Austin, Texas (see article today). Some commenters seem to imply that the attacker, Joseph Stark, was a hero.

What they forget is that a real person – not an IRS bogeyman – was killed. His name was Vernon Hunter, and he was a husband, father, grandfather and Vietnam veteran.

In a statement, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman had this to say about Hunter:

On February 18th, a small plane was intentionally crashed into an office building in Austin, Texas where almost 200 IRS employees work. This wanton act of violence took the life of Vernon Hunter, 68, who served his nation as an IRS employee for almost three decades. Others were injured, and given the enormous damage to the building, it is a miracle that more were not killed.

Our deepest sympathies go out to all who suffered through this terrible ordeal, but especially to the Hunter family and their neighbors, friends and colleagues who are struggling to make sense out of this senseless attack.

They are struggling to understand why Mr. Hunter was so callously slain. Why a husband won’t come home for dinner. Why a father, grandfather and loyal family man won’t be there for holidays and birthdays. Why the church usher won’t be at Sunday services at Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Why a soldier who honorably served our nation and survived two tours in Vietnam died a senseless and violent death in Austin, Texas.

Sadly, in the mind of one deeply disturbed individual, it was because Mr. Hunter worked in a building that housed the Internal Revenue Service. IRS employees were demonized – human beings no longer to be respected – human life no longer to be valued.

In today’s world, it is difficult for some to see beyond the labels – to see the person. Mr. Hunter worked for the IRS – a difficult and demanding job. But he did his job fairly and he did it well. He was a dedicated public servant who respected taxpayers and their rights. He viewed serving the taxpaying public as a high and noble calling and went out of his way to help taxpayers whenever he could.

And there are tens of thousands of Vernon Hunters throughout the country working at the IRS helping taxpayers navigate a difficult tax code that we did not write and collecting the taxes to keep our nation vibrant and strong.

The person standing next to you at your daughter’s soccer game may be an IRS customer service representative who answers difficult tax questions over the phone. The guy down the street helping with the community food drive may be a revenue agent who investigates wealthy individuals trying to hide money in secret offshore bank accounts. And the woman behind you in the supermarket check-out line may work at the IRS processing tax refunds.

For some in America, the IRS will always be viewed as a faceless bureaucracy. But they are wrong. In fact, it is an organization of hard-working people whose love of country and spirit of public service were embodied in Vernon Hunter – a spirit that lives on in them today. I sincerely hope that is one lesson we can learn from this terrible tragedy.

Doug Shulman
Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. Though Mr. Stark’s methods were wrong, we should not also forget that there are serious problems in this country that make their discussion timely.

    But again, in this case, not the right thing to do.

    Other cases may differ, and what matters most is that we deal with these problems, not say they don’t exist because a victim of these problems responds in the only way they see open to them.

    That just adds to the problem and is quite troubling.

  2. The action of Mr. Stark was not appropriate, however the problems upon which he based his actions are real, part of a complete breakdown of big government and big business.

    Though not an appropriate action on his part the discussion of these problems and the full range of appropriate responses and their timing is not only important, but crucial.

    One reason for the action of Mr. Stark was that he saw no other course of action open to him to pursue his constitutionally guaranteed right of petition and recourse.

    For big media to indirectly imply that the problems don’t exist because one individual improperly responds is troubling – and, FWIW, only increases the chances that at some point in time for some case, it is the ONLY appropriate action.

  3. tubbythetuba says:

    I’m truly sorry for the loss of life. The IRS has shown no such “tenderness” or “mercy” to the thousands of lives and families they ruin every year. The IRS IS the boogyman and the sooner we can disband them, the better off this country will be. Replace them with a national sales tax that is paid at the cash register and you will also pick up the money from the underground economy, ie drug trade.

  4. tubbythetuba says:

    This thought comes to me: You don’t ask the hangman for mercy, as he gets paid by the necks he stretchs….

  5. bysmiths says:

    I had my first audit in 1967. I was fined for deducting $0.25 per diem per proven travel day over what the auditor determined “correct” (still less than US Govt. Per Deim). I have since had 17 audits. In the last one, the auditor approved many deductions that the the supervisor then disqualified and largely helped bankrupt my company. Talk about a “faceless bureaucrat” – she wouldn’t even take my calls to appeal. IRS is composed of people, but many of them seem to want to make themselves the institution that inspires the us to depersonalize them as the Mob, the Facists, the Bankers….

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