Opinion: Discrimination more than just poor service

May 25, 2013


— “Horrible customer service.” That’s what the newly fired IRS commissioner averred was the agency’s only sin in singling out conservative political groups for discriminatory treatment.

In such grim proceedings one should be grateful for unintended humor. Horrible customer service is when every patron in a restaurant finds a fly in his soup. But when the maitre d’ screens patrons for their politics and only conservatives find flies paddle-wheeling through their consomme, the problem is not poor service. It is harassment and invidious discrimination.

And yet both the acting and the previous IRS commissioners insisted that the singling out of groups according to politics was in no way politically motivated. More hilarity. It’s definitional: If you discriminate according to politics, your discrimination is political. It’s a tautology, for God’s sake.

The IRS responds that this classification was for efficiency, to cut down on overwork. Ridiculous. How does demanding answers to endless intrusive and irrelevant questions, creating mountains of unnecessary paperwork for both applicant and IRS, reduce workload?

We are further asked to believe that a cadre of Cincinnati GS-11s is a hotbed of radical-left activism in America. Is anyone stupid enough to believe that?

That’s why the IRS scandal has legs. And because pulling the myriad loose ends of this improbable tale will be the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Democrat Max Baucus. So much for any reflexive administration charge of a partisan witch hunt.

On Wednesday, however, the issue was in the hands of the House Oversight Committee. It allowed Lois Lerner, the IRS official who had already apologized for targeting tea party groups, to read an opening statement claiming total innocence: “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.” She then refused, on grounds of self-incrimination, to answer any questions.

Perhaps not wanting to appear overbearing, Chairman Darrell Issa gave her a pass, pending legal advice on whether she had forfeited her Fifth Amendment shield by making a statement. Then again, Lerner’s performance may not have endeared her to the average viewer. Her arrogance reminded anyone who needed reminding why the IRS is so unloved. Try saying what she said — I deny, I deny, I deny and I refuse to answer any of your questions — when you’re next called in for an IRS audit.

Does the IRS scandal go all the way up to the top? As of now, doubtful. It’s nearly inconceivable that anyone would be stupid enough to have given such a politically fatal directive from the White House (although admittedly the bar is rapidly falling).

But when some bureaucrat is looking for cues from above, it matters when the president of the United States denounces the Supreme Court decision that allowed the proliferation of 501(c)4s and specifically calls the resulting “special interest groups” running ads to help Republicans “not just a threat to Democrats — that’s a threat to our democracy.” That’s especially telling when it comes amid letters from Democratic senators to the IRS urging aggressive scrutiny of 501(c)4 applications.

A White House can powerfully shape other perceptions as well. For years the administration has conducted a concerted campaign to demonize Fox News, delegitimizing it as a news organization, even urging its ostracism. Then (surprise!) its own Justice Department takes the unprecedented step of naming a Fox reporter a co-conspirator in a leak case — when no reporter has ever been prosecuted for merely soliciting information — in order to invade his and Fox’s private and journalistic communications.

No one goes to jail for creating such climates of intolerance. Nor is it a crime to incessantly claim that those who offer this president opposition and push back — Republicans, tea partyers, Fox News, whoever dares resist the sycophantic thrill-up-my-leg media adulation — do so only for “politics,” power and pure partisanship, while the Dear Leader devotes himself exclusively to the nation, the middle class, the good and just.

It’s not unlawful to run an ad hominem presidency. It’s merely shameful. The great rhetorical specialty of this president has been his unrelenting attribution of bad faith to those who disagree with him. He acts on principle; they from the basest of instincts.

Well then, why not harass them? Why not ask the content of their prayers? Why not read their email? Why not give them especially horrible customer service?

Waiter! There’s a fly ...

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 12 months ago

Interesting. Charles did not mention the IRS Commissioner, Steven Miller by name. He also failed to mention Miller was a George W Bush appointee. He also failed to mention Millers proposed replacements were ALL blocked by Legislative Republicans.Your Disdain is Hollow ,Charles! Especially when you Cherry Pick Facts that support your opinion and disregard facts that Don't. Typical of your column. No surprises here."Me Doth think Thou Protests Too Much".

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

Actually, it was Schulman who was appointed by Bush, and it was under his watch that these things occurred.

I agree with the rest - CK is so biased it's glaringly obvious.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 12 months ago

Thanks for the correction. So Many Name, so many scandals it makes my head spin. I need to get a huge spread sheet just to keep up. Thanks jafs.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 12 months ago

Went back to the article where it talks about Miller succeeding Schulman who was a Bush Appointee. Wording was a little misleading. Again ,Thanks.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

Sure - I had the same misunderstanding before I did a little research.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

What behavior?

There's no evidence that the president was involved in any way in the IRS nonsense.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

So we know that the buck doesn't stop with the President, it stops with the Bush appointee, who, BTW, has testified before Congress that he, like the President, had no knowledge of this incident. But because he was appointed by Bush, the buck stops with him.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

Well, I don't know if he's responsible either.

He was however the head of the IRS during that time, which is a much closer tie to the IRS than the presidency.

Do you hold the president personally responsible for everything that happens in the federal government?

I point out that the head of the IRS was appointed by Bush in response to the attempt to tar and feather Obama with this problem - folks who do that seem to forget that inconvenient fact.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

Generally, I wouldn't hold the President responsible for something like this. Not any President. But while people are trying very hard to Obama, there's an equal number trying to lay this off on Bush, as the appointment was his.

While CK's opinion piece was just that, an opinion, and yes, a biased opinion, so was Doubting Thomas' response. If you're going to call out CK for being biased, why not Thomas as well? I'll go ahead and answer that question, as it's implied in Larry Native's question directed to you. And that answer is that you're just as biased as CK, though at the other end of the political spectrum. Not that you're not entitled to your own bias. This is an opinion forum and CK wrote an opinion piece. It just seems you're opening yourself up when you criticize bias with bias of your own.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

Except that I'm not at all. My view isn't based on idealizing one side or the other, or ignoring inconvenient facts. I don't see any sort of "equal number" of people trying to crucify Bush for this - where do you find that?

And, what exactly is equally biased in DT's post - he simply points out that the Congressional R have been blocking appointments, which is true.

There's a big difference between having a point of view, after careful consideration of facts and actions, and simply being so biased that you can't see clearly, and have to exclude massive amounts of information to maintain your view.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

I could say two things, both true, but put completely different spins on it. CK does it, so do you. Take your statement that Shulman was a Bush appointee and it was under his watch that these things occurred. Now I'll say the same thing, with a decidedly different spin. Shulman was appointed by George Bush, a decidedly non-partisan appointment. Evidence of that is that a bi-partisan Congress confirmed his nomination unanimously. Addition evidence of the non-partisan nature of Shulman's tenure is the fact the Obama made the affirmative decision to keep him on for some time after his own inauguration. And while this scandal happened under the watch of Shulman, Obama had no problem ousting his successor, Miller, again evidence that Obama was apparently happy enough with Shulman's performance that he made no such attempt to oust him, as he did with Miller.

You see, Jafs, you complain about massive amounts of information being excluded. Why mention Shulman was a Bush appointee but leave out the non-partisan nature of the appointment itself? Why leave off the bi-partisan unanimous vote in Congress? Why leave out that Shulman served at the pleasure of Obama, in that he didn't seek his ouster?

I've said here and I've said it previously that I don't blame either President for this mess. Then again, I take Shulman at his word when he testified before Congress that he was unaware of the wrongdoing. Given all this, I think anyone who brings up Bush or Obama is showing an unwarranted bias. CK did it. DT did it. And you picked up that torch and ran with it.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

I thought that presidential nominees reflected the president's values, and that the Senate just deferred to that. That's what you've said before on this subject. Have you now changed your mind about that?

Either way, my only reason to mention the Bush appointment is to counter the attempt to crucify Obama for this. If Schulman was somehow politically neutral (if that's possible), then he wasn't likely to be Obama's henchman either.

It's a bit odd to me that Obama wanted Miller gone, since my understanding is that he didn't preside over the IRS during the time in question, and in fact had been investigating the targeting of certain groups.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

Have I changed my mind? Have you?

Here's the deal, on day one of any administration, they inherit a bunch of people and a bunch of policies from their predecessor. But then than have a choice, to continue with those policies and people or change them. There does come a time when if the choice is made to continue them, then they become your people, your policies.

Let me give you a couple of examples. On day one of Obama's tenure, he inherited the war in Iraq. It would be unrealistic to expect that on day one he would simply order all troops home. But enough changes were made and the war did end for the U.S. that we can reasonably call that war Bush's decision. Contrast that with Vietnam, when Nixon took over for Johnson. Nixon also inherited a war, however, he continued and even expanded the U.S. role. At some time, it became Nixon's war also.

Now look at Shulman. Yes, he was nominated and confirmed during the Bush administration. I wouldn't expect that the head of the IRS is such a pressing need that Obama felt the need to sack him on day one and replace him with his guy. However, after some time passes and no change is made, yes, Shulman becomes as much Obama's guy as Bush's.

And certainly if one is going to be critical when a commentator leaves out pertinent facts, then that person needs to be careful and include pertinent facts. Such as the non-partisan nature of the appointment, the bi-partisan unanimous vote, etc., rather than giving the impression that this was simply Bush's guy. And if you're going to be critical of someone's attempt to wrongfully crucify Obama, simple fairness would dictate that you call out people trying to crucify Bush. To remain silent on that shows your own bias.

Corey Williams 4 years, 12 months ago

Maybe no one is blaming Bush (for this at least). Maybe we're pointing out the hypocrisy of the congressional republicans for ginning up false controversy and the press, with fox news at the front, for their complicity in these faux scandals.
And if you are so upset with people blaming Bush, maybe you need to know "...a senior administration official says the budgetary problems stem from what he called inadequate defense, intelligence and homeland security resources that were handed down from Clinton."
From: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/28/2009.deficit/

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

"Maybe no one is blaming Bush (for this at least)" - But they are. And others are blaming Obama. And they're both wrong.

Corey Williams 4 years, 12 months ago

Just by referencing that someone was appointed under another president doesn't mean the blame automatically goes to them.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

Nobody's trying to crucify Bush - show me where that's happened.

It doesn't make any sense to claim that Bush, a conservative president, would appoint somebody and want them to specifically look harder at conservative organizations. So nobody's doing that.

I didn't know the details of Schulman's appointment until now, but they don't alter my view, since my only point was that this is not Obama's doing, and that folks are trying to attack him for it incorrectly.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 12 months ago

If Pointing out that a columnist is cherry picking his facts is Biased,well then I guess I am Biased. I am Biased Against Lies, Misinformation and Deception. I am Biased FOR Truth, Transparency, and a Justice System that Works for the Average citizen. So Yes. I AM Biased.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

Yet you cherry pick your facts in the same way the columnist does, making you equally honest or not, equally biased or not, equally in favor of truth, transparency and justice or not. Congrats. You've achieved equality with the commentator you are so critical of.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 12 months ago

Wish I got payed for my Opinion Like He Does. Thank You Though. My Day is complete. I have been compared to a Nationally Syndicated Columnist. Good or Bad? I take it as a Compliment.

msezdsit 4 years, 12 months ago

"But because he was appointed by Bush, the buck stops with him."

Maybe the buck stops with the head of the IRS. But don't let that get in your way of blaming Obama nor the fact that the buck stops with the illegal activity of these groups that was made legal by the real scandal, citizens united and the laws the republicans passed to set up this scam. The Buck stops with the republicans on this one.

tomatogrower 4 years, 12 months ago

So all these "tea party" groups started popping up everywhere. How is the IRS suppose to find out if they are legit or just someone who wants to get out of paying taxes? Several years ago I knew people who turned their house into a "church", and even had Sunday "sermons", so they could qualify as a church.

msezdsit 4 years, 12 months ago

OK chuck, one more time for you. The culture for this whole situation was created by republicans.

The catastrophic republican supreme court ruling "citizens united" created, among other disasters, a false identity that caused a firestorm of conservative republicans to file for 501c4 status. The head of the IRS was a republican. The whole premiss of 501c4 is to be able to hide what your really doing. Republicans wrote the laws that also intentionally lack oversight for these groups further contributing to their intended lack of transparency. The entire purpose of the label "tea party" was to avoid paying taxes.This is what caused the so called "red flag" not the IRS. This created an impossible situation for the IRS but yet the IRS is still expected to do their job and evaluate whether these groups (again by fault of the republicans) are paying their taxes. All of this plus the lopsided weight of the shear numbers of conservatives (8.5 conservatives to 1.5 others) caused the the appearance of singling out a particular sector of the population. Now the republicans are blaming Obama for the trap they are fully responsible for. You can't blame the IRS for being upset with these groups for setting them up. Lastly, the very nature of these groups existence is a red flag for being scrutinized. The scandal is purely and wholly rests on the republicans. Now, move on chuck.

deec 4 years, 12 months ago

I wonder if Chuckie was as discombobulated when this sort of thing happened to liberal groups under the previous president?


yourworstnightmare 4 years, 12 months ago

The tea party types love profiling except when it is done to them.

Profiling of hispanics, profiling of african americans, profiling of muslims. All hunky-dory.

But when an agency whose job it is to determine tax exempt status profiles a group who openly proclaim their hatred of and opposition to taxes profiles them, that is a bridge too far. Profiling of white conservatives.

Cry babies.

Mike Ford 4 years, 12 months ago

I love this whole attitude of amnesia by the wingers. President Obama could've and probably should've been vindictive enough to throw sand on the gop and open up investigations as soon as his first term began. You'd think the way some of these amnesia afflected hypocrites have acted that he did so. But he didn't. There was a necessity to turn this country around and make that move more important than any vindictive petty acts of political revenge which currently seems the only card these gop and tea party children and their intellectually challenged constituents have to play. any genius with half a brain knows that a non profit has to take a non partisan stance to operate. These tea party circus employees seem to have forgot this. Many of them didn't have the stones to go public just like all of the big money people who hid as they threw money to defeat President Obama last fall. Like the poster above stated these circus employees created their own mess.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 12 months ago

Has Krauthammer ever written anything worth remembering?

He is a provocateur of propaganda and does nothing positive for this country other than scare people into believing things that are not true.

He is the "Steven King" of political commentary and no one on television has ever appeared more unhappy with their life than he.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 12 months ago

You do the Author, Stephen King, A disservice there but I DO get your point.

Liberty275 4 years, 12 months ago

I don't think the White House would bother with such minutia, and I don'r think Obama would allow such activities. I don't like some of his policies, but he seems above this sort of petty act.

One entity that needs to be called in front of congress are the officials from the labor unions that represent IRS workers. Call the top 30 people from the union and make them testify under oath. If they are found to have influenced workers to violate the constitution, fine the union hundreds of millions of dollars and fire every IRS employee that abused their position. Then fine the union some more.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 12 months ago

Right wingers have made the argument that profiling of hispanics makes sense because they are the most likely to be here illegally. Profiling muslims makes sense because they are most likely to commit acts of terrorism. Profiling young black men because they are the most likely to commit crimes. Profiling saves time and energy by focusing on the most likely groups.

What about in this case? Could the same argument be made that anti-tax organizations are most likely to try to illegally get out of paying their taxes? If tea party groups are doing nothing illegal, then they have nothing to fear.

msezdsit 4 years, 12 months ago

The republicans and their supreme court are responsible for passing laws that make what should be against the law (501c4 political organizations pretending to be "social welfare) legal. The overwhelming number of conservative groups jumping on the bandwagon they created should be scrutinized by the IRS. These organizations, by their own intent, caused themselves to be red flagged by the IRS. They met the scandal and it was them. This whole false narrative that the republicans also created is pure partisan story telling. This whole scandal is a republican scandal.

Orwell 4 years, 12 months ago

"… the Dear Leader devotes himself exclusively…. "It’s not unlawful to run an ad hominem presidency. It’s merely shameful."

I guess the same complaint doesn't apply to columnists, even those who have engaged in four-plus years of ad hominem complaints.

Self-unaware much, Chuckles?

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago


Over 16,000 organizations just in KS alone!

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 12 months ago

Great info Avarom! The D.C. area has over 11,000. Wow! Will file this for future reference. Good Site.

avarom 4 years, 11 months ago

Thank you Thomas, hope you find it useful!

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

This is just one small part of a very long and complex taxing system we use in this country. Or should I say, a small part of how we try to avoid paying taxes. Texas has 100,000 of these 501 (c) (3)s, New York another 100,000 and California 160,000. I didn't add them up but we have to be looking at a couple of million organization organizing themselves in this manner for the purpose of not paying taxes. And of course, 501c3 represents only one small part of the tax codes.

A complex taxing system benefits those who can maneuver within that complexity, those with access to tax lawyers and accountants who know more about the system than your average IRS worker.

Re-write the tax codes making it no longer than what the average person could scribble on a napkin. The little guy will benefit more if for no other reason than the big guy won't be able to.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

I agree that we should simplify the tax codes, although I'm not sure a small napkin's worth is quite enough.

Also, it's not at all clear that would benefit the "little guy" - it would depend a lot on the specifics. For example, we could have a no deduction, no exemption 50% income tax - that wouldn't help the little guys at all.

I'm really not at all sure why certain groups get to be tax exempt in the first place, and would seriously consider eliminating that status.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 11 months ago

Do you really think the little guy would suffer if everyone paid 50% in taxes? The government would be swimming in money. We'd have cradle to grave services the likes we've never seen before.

BTW - If the government did take half my earnings in the form of taxes, you better believe I'd be voting in every election possible. I might even vote twice, so much would I want my voice heard on how my hard earned money is going to be spent. Right now, the poor traditionally vote is smaller numbers. Maybe if half their earnings were taken in taxes, they'd be looking to vote once or twice as well. Maybe, just maybe, keeping their taxes low is just a ploy to keep them out of the voting booth.

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

You don't?

Let's see - at minimum wage, about $15K/yr, which is hardly enough to live on anyway, you'd wind up with about $7,500/yr instead.

You assume that somehow what they do with the money would then benefit those folks, but I'm not at all convinced that's the case. They already spend (waste) a lot of money in ways that seem absurd to me - why wouldn't they just keep doing that?

I've heard your idea before - and although I might agree that it would spur some voting activity, it wouldn't necessarily improve the quality of voters, or their votes. So, I think most people would just vote for candidates that promise to lower their taxes, and then we'd be right back where we started.

Who's trying to keep the poor from voting, and why?

uncleandyt 4 years, 11 months ago

Another phony "scandal" is left un-scooped from the catbox that is our American media. Dear Charles, please update this story. ....crickets

Commenting has been disabled for this item.