Monday, March 2, 2015

The IRS: No credibility at all

You know, it's really sad that we in the USA are all subject to the will, the caprices and the passions of the IRS.

In less than a day, the Internal Revenue Service can deprive us of our homes, our bank accounts, our credit ratings, our personal reputations, our livelihoods, and even our freedom (I mean, like locking us in jail), for what some IRS employee perceives as our breaking the law.

This is the tax law. You know, the Internal Revenue Code, or whatever it is called. A law so huge and complicated that even the IRS admits that they don't completely understand it. Heck, even the congressmen who voted for it don't understand it.

Yeah, and if the IRS even thinks you are cheating the government out of their rightful share of your hard-earned money, they can come down on you like a ton of bricks, and there is literally nothing you can do about it.

HOWEVER, if you work for the IRS and you do something that is blatantly illegal, and you do it over and over and over again, nothing happens to you. How does it feel to be both omnipotent and invincible, unaccountable to anyone even though it's obvious that you are the biggest jerk, collectively, in the entire country?

Does anybody who works at the IRS wonder why regular, everyday, ordinary, law-abiding Americans hold the taxman in such deep contempt?

In 2013, it was obvious to anybody who could read a newspaper that the IRS had unfairly targeted and bullied conservative action groups - especially those who chose to include the words "tea party" or "patriot" in the names of their groups. The IRS even issued a public apology for having done so.

The big question at the time was whether this was the work of a few rogue IRS agents, or whether the directive came all the way from the top. "Top" could be defined as the head of the IRS, Lois Lerner, or someone even higher, up to and including President Obama himself.

To answer this question, investigators ordered the IRS to turn over all of Lois Lerner's emails for the critical period of time. The IRS responded that the emails were lost because the hard drive on Lerner's computer had crashed and the contents could not be retrieved - the contents including the emails in question. They used all sorts of tech mumbo-jumbo to claim that the hard drive had been physically damaged and, consequently, physically destroyed. They claimed that this was per department policy, stupidly ignoring the fact that that same department policy had a "records retention clause" dictating that all electronic correspondence should be backed up and saved for several years.

This clause had the force of law - which the IRS flouted. Destroying emails or hard drives containing them could be construed as destroying evidence.

The IRS expected the public to believe that the agency did not have a regular data backup plan in place, and that backup tapes of Lerner's hard drive did not exist. I find that impossible to believe.

The IRS also expected the public not to understand the concept of a mailserver - the electronic post office that handles all the mail in and out of an office or a company. Mailservers are regularly backed up as well, especially in a place like a government office, where a "paper trail" can be crucial to conducting everyday business and to enforcing both contracts and laws. To suggest that the IRS did not have a backup policy for their mailserver is way, way beyond stupid. It's unbelievable. Inconceivable. Asinine.

(SHORT EDIT, THE NEXT DAY: Oh, it gets worse than that. See my next article .)

In testifying before a congressional inquiry into the matter, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, adding, "I will not answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of this committee’s meeting." I can't think of an appropriate word to express my contempt for someone like that.

So Lerner's excuse was the equivalent of "My dog ate my homework," and the public was expected to believe her, in spite of the glaring evidence to the contrary.

President Obama even contributed to the deception, declaring in February 2014 that there was "not a smidgen of corruption" in the IRS or in their handling of the "tea party" paperwork. He expected us to believe him simply on the strength of his voice.

His earnestness reminded me of what Jean Girardoux once said: "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made."

(Maybe Obama didn't realize that what he was saying was false. Maybe he thought he was telling the truth because he didn't know the truth yet.)

After Lerner resigned, other IRS officials said that (surprise!) backup tapes DO exist, but that retrieving the thousands of emails from the tapes would be "onerous."

So investigators tried other ways to retrieve the missing emails. In fact, trying to retrieve the missing emails by scouring thousands of other  users' email accounts for messages sent To or From Lois Lerner netted about 67,000 emails, at a cost to the taxpayer (yes, the TAXpayer. Catch the irony?) of about $14 million. It took over a year. This whole time, the backup tapes were staring them in the face, and any high school nerd with a PC and Python could have written a program to search and retrieve the missing emails from the tapes in much less time and at a much lower cost.

Well, finally somebody did just that - but not a high school kid. Investigators hired an outside company, who took the tapes and TWO WEEKS LATER retrieved ALL of the emails from them, including an additional 32,000 Lois Lerner emails. That is MUCH less "onerous" than the exercise that the IRS put us, the American public, through to find the first 67,000 emails.

There is no question in the public's mind that Lerner, and the IRS departments that bullied the conservative groups, were corrupt. And dishonest. AND thoroughly, completely, despairingly incompetent. The agency's credibility in the public eye is absolutely zero. And while they have spent the past two years  babbling about this to the press and to Congress, they have hoped that the public would buy their story and not see through the flimsy fabric it was written upon.

The game's up, you morons.

You freaking morons.

You all ought to be fired. I wouldn't give you a job as a greeter at WalMart.

I hesitate to be so bold in my pronouncements, all of which are taken from public news reports, because I have also heard that the IRS targets people who speak out against the agency. Nobody believes those "random" audits are completely random. But I'll give it a shot and we'll see what happens.

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