Which groups? Well, those with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names and nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution.
It's disgraceful that government bureaucrats, whether on their own initiative or at the direction of superiors, singled out anyone for special scrutiny, but what their selection criteria were makes it even worse. Reportedly, the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that "criticize how the country is being run" and those that are engaged in educating Americans "on the Constitution and Bill of Rights."
Surely, we all understand the awesome and, frankly, horrifying power the IRS has come to have in our system, which originally didn't even contemplate an income tax, much less oversight of it by such a monstrous bureaucratic leviathan. What could be more chilling and destructive to our liberties than a government targeting -- that's its word, not mine -- private citizens and organizations based on their political and ideological views?
If the First Amendment means anything, it is that the full force of the federal government will be used to safeguard, not suppress, the liberties of American citizens to utter political speech, especially speech critical of the government. But instead, this IRS sought for abuse groups that criticized the administration and groups that wanted to teach people that under our Constitution, such government officials have no right to do this type of thing.
And you wonder why people favor a major overhaul of the tax system? What if low-level staffers in an obscure Cincinnati field office were actually solely responsible for this, as the administration is alleging? How could a system become so corrupt -- or how could officials overseeing it become so reckless -- as to make possible such a systematic abuse of power?
But speaking of this effort to pass the buck to "low-level" players: Can we not at least agree that the Obama administration has established a culture conducive to the type of stereotypical thinking that could lead to this? Didn't the Department of Homeland Security under this administration list right-wing groups as extremists and potential terrorists? Hasn't President Obama himself referred to tea partyers as "tea baggers"? Haven't other Democrats deliberately depicted tea party groups as violent extremists who are a hair trigger away from armed revolution?
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