Rather than threatening to pass legislation restricting the IRS's ability to harass and prosecute targeted groups and individuals, Republican lawmakers should be applauding the agency's actions and vowing more of the same.
The IRS has been engaged in political skulduggery since the days of FDR, who used the agency to intimidate his political opponents into silence and pass the New Deal.Much of the Progressive agenda of the day would have been rejected by a public made aware of its implications, but thanks to IRS audits of major news organizations of the day, FDR got the complicit silence he needed and the Progressive framework was imposed on an unknowing public.
Since that time, every Democratic President and several Republicans as well have used the IRS to intimidate political opponents, undercut opposing candidates during elections, and punish enemies, personal and political. Most recently, the IRS was used by the Obama campaign to target Tea Party activists in swing states like Ohio, audit outspoken Republican donors, and leak confidential information on conservative activists and Governor Romney to progressive organizations and journalists, arguably providing the margin of victory in his 2012 election.
In spite of laws forbidding it, the use of the IRS as a tool of political terrorism has existed since the inception of the agency. Suggestions by some Republican lawmakers that new legislation is needed to stop such abuses of government power are short-sighted and, in the end, foolish. Laws already on the books forbidding such activities are routinely ignored by members of Congress and the administration, and new laws aren’t going to make any substantive difference.
Instead, Republicans need to embrace reality as it is, and use it to their political advantage instead of trying to occupy a moral high ground. Republicans should make clear that the next time they are in power, the IRS will be used extensively to target every progressive organization that enjoys tax-exempt status for audits and, to the extent possible, criminal prosecution. In addition, every major progressive opinion leader, journalist, and member of Congress should be informed, in stark and unequivocal terms, that the IRS is going to be used to destroy their political and professional careers to the greatest extent possible.
And wealthy progressive donors who are used to their privacy, should realize that their names and financial information will be released to the public, and that IRS agents are going to become their new best friends as all aspects of their private and professional affairs are subjected to the type of scrutiny normally reserved for conservative millionaires.
For too long, Republican lawmakers have tried to use legislation to correct criminal behavior at the highest levels of government. It clearly hasn’t worked, so let’s just forget it. Instead of using the IRS like a dagger to the back of political opponents while demanding investigations to end such abuse, let’s pull the sword out of the scabbard, and start cleaving some heads. Let’s try giving progressives a dose of their own medicine, Chicago-style, and see how that works. Republicans might just find that Mutually Assured Destruction works just as well with the IRS as it did with nuclear weapons.