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Take Away the Power to Destroy
"The power to tax involves the power to destroy."
Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that almost 200 years ago -- 100 years before we even had a federal income tax, which in 1913 was capped at just 7%.
The Internal Revenue Service sought to destroy hundreds of conservative groups over the course of at least three years and two election cycles, from March 2010 through early 2013.
For this, guilty IRS officials should be not just fired but imprisoned, as should anyone in the Obama administration who directly or tacitly backed this profoundly anti-American policy.
Impeachment may also be warranted, as it was for Richard Nixon when he only threatened to sic the IRS on political enemies.
But at the same time conservatives should take a hard look at how the IRS was trying to destroy them. It was by delaying or denying tax-exempt status to conservative groups. And while it may be controversial, I believe conservatives should focus not just on punishing lawbreakers but also on reforming the law -- in a way that promotes conservative values.
Granting a group tax-exempt status lets supporters take deductions on a percentage of their donations. Those donations are the life-blood of both conservative and liberal groups. That's why the IRS had the power to destroy groups, especially fledgling tea parties, by withholding tax exemptions.
But if we reform the tax code, if we move toward something like a flat tax with lower rates and strictly limited deductions, the government's power to decide which groups qualify will also be strictly limited. And donations will no longer be based on tax incentives.
We do have to be realistic. Since so many organizations now rely on tax deductible donations, we can move only gradually toward reform. And you can't just exclude "political" groups. Tea Parties as well as progressive groups like Media Matters deny they're partisan. They consider themselves educational or public policy organizations. Rather than let bureaucrats seek out agendas by asking (conservatives, not liberals) about family members, reading lists and even prayers, let's just get rid of exemptions that invite corruption and intimidation.
Our tax code now consists of tens of thousands of pages of politicized tax deductions, incentives and other carrots and sticks. If tax deductions are the life-blood of organizations in the arts, education, health and of course religion, they are no less vital to politicians and bureaucrats who have the power to grant or deny those deductions.
The cancer at the heart of our government is corrupt tax policy. And while conservatives must hold accountable anyone -- from the president on down -- who may have abused current law, conservatives must also seek to reform the law, and trust that Americans who are free to keep more of their earnings will still choose to be generous in donating those earnings.
Scandals and Selective Outrage
The Associated Press is righteously indignant over the latest target of the Obama administration -- perhaps because that target
is the Associated Press.
But our country's biggest and most influential gatherer of news did not show much interest in the other two scandals now rocking Washington: Benghazi and the IRS scrutiny of conservative groups.