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The most pathetic moment in the IRS scandal
June 12, 2013 - Mike Maneval
Perhaps the most pathetic - and most illustrative - moment of the ongoing Internal Revenue Service scandal so far came earlier this month when Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel testified to the U.S. House's Appropriations Committee.
The scandal, an umbrella of issues in which tea party organizations and similarly minded groups were subjected to additional scrutiny according to an inspector general's report and in which IRS bureaucrats attended lavish conferences at inflated expense, has an abundance of pathetic moments, before and after Werfel's testimony.
It was not Werfel's claims that he is committed to restoring public trust in the agency, a vow so predictable it only could draw yawning from the public. Nor was it the revelation in the testimony, reported by the Associated Press, that the President had ordered a 30-day review by Werfel of the agency's operations - though in the wake of this scandal constraining examination of the abuses and flaws of the IRS to 30 days is pathetic.
Rather, it was the request by the administration and Werfel for a funding increase for the inept agency, so plans to expand its portfolio of responsibilities can continue even as questions linger about how ineffectively and inappropriately it handled its core mission that I believe American voters and taxpayers will find appallingly pathetic.
The new responsibilities mostly pertain to enforcement of provisions of the health care reform law, a law that for reasons both valid and ludicrous already is viewed by many with fear and suspicion. Asking an agency as troubled as the IRS now is to manage these enforcement efforts only will fuel such fears.
Authorities independent from the service - probably, as Cleveland Plain Dealer guest columnist and civil liberties attorney David Marburger recommends, an independent counsel or special prosecutor in the vein of the Watergate and Whitewater investigations, need to be tasked with the inquiry, and until their work is completed and the responsible parties within the IRS and possibly the White House terminated and, when applicable, criminally charged, other offices and bureaus within the federal government should be given the duties the 2010 law assigned to the IRS.
For many, the scandal recalls what likely is the most famous political scandal in American history. As Marburger writes, "without a special prosecutor, we would have learned nothing more convincing about Watergate than we have learned about the reach of the current controversies." And regardless whether the IRS scandal is a second Watergate or more akin to the 2008 scandal identifying widespread drug use and sex between regulators in the Bush administration's Interior Department and officials with the companies they were supposed to be policing, America's voters and taxpayers deserve a government that holds its own accountable when they violate the law and our equality before it.
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