If you missed much of the testimony of outgoing, acting, IRS Commissioner Steven Miller before a House committee on Friday, then you didn't see one of the most infuriating performances by an ostensibly public servant in recent history. Miller, who will leave his post two weeks early cannot be trusted with a hot dog cart, let alone the most feared bureaucracy in the United States government.
This clip is the exchange that should have Miller doing community service cleaning rest stop toilets with a toothbrush for the rest of his life.
Ryan: You said in your answer that you were "aware that some 200 501(c)4 applications fell into this category, we did group these organizations together to ensure consistency, to ensure quality. We continue to work those cases." You didn't mention targeting based on ideology. You didn't mention targeting based upon buzzwords like "tea party" or "patriots" or "9/12." You knew that, but didn't mention that to this committee. Do you not think that that's a very incomplete answer?
Miller: I answered truthfully.
You think that kind of answer would fly if given to an IRS auditor?
And the news out of the hearing got worse.
Seriously? Some IRS agent thought they had the authority to ask a pro-life group about the content of their prayers? The proper response would've been:
I think we should all send the IRS the content of our prayers right now. Mine include the words "smite," "whore of Babylon," and "flat tax."
— Anthony Sacramone (@strangeherring) May 18, 2013
If you were dealing with any less powerful bureaucracy.
The congressman in the above video missed the proper follow-on question to Miller's ridiculous response: Can you imagine any context where requesting the contents of the prayers of an American taxpayer is valid IRS business?
We'll be talking about the IRS for awhile longer. The "fine public servant" who was in charge of the office that was targeting conservative groups, but didn't know anything about it, received more than $100,000 in bonuses over the last four years and is now in charge of the IRS' Obamacare implementation.
There's also the question of whether President Obama or one of his higher-ups directed the IRS to do this. In Friday's Wall Street Journal, columnist Kimberly Strassel eloquently pointed out that he did, merely by the way he's conducted himself over the past four years.
President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.
But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.
Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do. "He put a target on our backs, and he's now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?" asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.
Speaking of VanderSloot, here's what happened to him.
And Obama got reports back that his order was successfully received. People complained to Congress. Congress held hearings and people like Mr. Miller above lied.
The political higher-ups at the Treasury Department knew about this in 2012—before the election—and never passed that information onto the White House. There are even reports that the White House counsel knew of this scandal three weeks ago, yet failed to tell President Obama, who claims that he first learned of it when it was reported in the press a week ago. If that is true, the White House counsel needs to be sacked.
It's been 40 years since the IRS was politicized in this fashion. It didn't take a phone call to get the dirty tricks started. All it took was Obama identifying the "bad guys" and his acolytes at the IRS dutifully rode into action. People need to be fired, not just asked to leave their jobs two weeks early. Some people probably need to spend some time in a federal prison as well.
How zealously Obama takes on the IRS will say a lot about how this will affect the rest of his presidency.
I saw a brief report on the news today that the IRS has a $92 million "bonus" budget and the average IRS worker gets about $5,500 in bonuses every year. Zeroing out that practice would be a good first step for Congress reining in an out out-of-control bureaucracy.