Sympathy For The Devil

June 12, 2013

By Mark J Landry

Quite often, as I toil through a menial task in the nearly sterile environment which is my workplace, I am visited by my good friends: the voices in my head. This usually occurs following my lunch break, where I listen to Conservative commentary by such pundits as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin -depending on when my varying work schedule allows for my break. Over the last several weeks, the topic of discussion centered around the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) targeting Conservative -mainly TEA Party- groups starting as early as 2010. As the voices in my head try to rationalize this IRS scandal, I found my passionate and analytical sides doing battle -much like the cartoonish imagery of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. While I have no doubt this scandal extends to the high levels of the IRS, and quite possibly to the President of the United States himself, it is best if I leave the speculation to others.  Therefore, my analysis of the scandal will come with both understanding the root cause, and even sympathizing with those who perpetuated the scandal.

As I pondered, the familiar song “Sympathy For The Devil”, by The Rolling Stones, began playing in my head -no doubt put there by my passionate side. Should I have some sympathy for the tax collectors? After all, the tax collectors are the most excoriated group in human history -even a major indictment against Jesus Christ, was his willingness to dine with them. But taxes, and the collection thereof, are a necessary evil; whereas, a government would cease to function without revenue. The tax collectors in America are the agents of the IRS. IRS employment is nothing more than a bureaucratic hierarchy of one level over-seeing the next lower level, with the average IRS agents working at a desk processing tax data from average Americans. In the mind of most Americans, no government institution is so hated as the IRS, and April 15th -the day the taxman comes knocking- is the most dreaded day on the calendar. And those who work for the IRS are thought of as bureaucratic villains bent on causing financial pain to hard working Americans. But IRS agents are nothing more than  public service workers that do a job that must be done.

As a realist, I believe humans are a lot like electricity, in that both seek the path of least resistance. Just as a bolt of lightning will strike a metal pole over a tree to reach the ground, humans will forsake ethical and even moral standards to insure basic needs are met. This reasoning coupled with greed, envy, and ambition, can set the stage for any institution scandal. And there is no greater institution prone to scandal, than a bloated government which is duly elected by the people to facilitate the needs of the populous. To those employees of the IRS, their publicly-funded government job is insurance that their basic financial needs will be met; therefore, it is not unreasonable for a threatening of these employee’s livelihood to be met with starch resistance.  In nature, the most efficient way to counter a potential threat is to disable the means by which a threat can be perpetuated. In the case of the TEA Party, constrain the funding mechanism -prolonging the application of a tax exempt status- you disable the ability of the group to broadcast its message. After all, the TEA in TEA Party is an acronym for: Taxed Enough Already. And while formed as a response to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), many TEA Party members call for the restructuring of current tax law, if not the total repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and to that end the elimination of the IRS. This scandal, no matter the politics, is about survival.

Even if it was [is] illegal, unethical, and maybe even immoral to target TEA Party, IRS employees had some justification for their actions. As the TEA Party movement spread around the country, major media personalities denounced the TEA Party as racist bigots, and reverted to calling them Teabaggers. There was such animosity, major media broadcast networks even used doctored photos and specifically edited videos to wrongly portray the TEA Party as a hate-filled political group. If I were an IRS bureaucrat and was exposed to just the major media’s portrayal of the TEA Party, then I would think long and hard about giving them any kind of special tax status. And I am sure the same thoughts percolated throughout the IRS agents tasked with reviewing TEA Party applications. Therefore, I believe IRS agents saw their actions as justified in protecting the integrity of the tax system.

I do not mean to justify the action taken by the IRS upon the TEA Party, rather my goal was to put myself in the shoes of the average IRS agent in order to understand this scandal. In my understanding the way most bureaucracies work, orders to  perpetuate the scandal had to come from those at the highest levels. And for those who indeed ordered the targeting of TEA Party groups, I want to see them in the unemployment line -if not wearing prison jumpsuits. The heart of this IRS scandal stems from the quasi-socialist revolution America has gone through over the last one hundred years, which lead to the vast increase in the size of government. This scandal is only one of many that will happen thanks to the current size of government.  I will finish my analysis with this quote by Thomas Jefferson: “[a] government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything…”


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