Conservatives? Harass them! Planned Parenthood? Fund them!


The Washington Post now reports that officials at the highest levels of the Internal Revenue Service were aware of the program to target conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status prior to the 2012 elections but that they remained silent. The deliberate and shocking targeting of conservative organizations that sought tax-exempt status stands in contrast to government collusion with liberal groups like Planned Parenthood that receive grants funded with tax dollars while engaging in political advocacy. These revelations also show just how dangerous the IRS will become with the broad powers granted to it by ObamaCare, especially as this administration continues to push its grotesquely pro-abortion agenda.

At the same time the IRS was ramping up its harassment of Tea Party groups in 2011, liberals were outraged and President Obama threatened to veto the debt ceiling legislation when Republicans tried to end public financing of Planned Parenthood’s abortion mills and incessant political advocacy. Even now, Planned Parenthood continues to receive public funding and also operates a 501(c)(4), presumably with private contributions, although accounting gimmicks make this separation highly dubious. Meanwhile, Tea Party groups whose stated mission is to educate citizens about the Bill of Rights and accept only private donations were held to a much higher level of scrutiny.

The contrast is spectacular and revealing: for modern liberalism, abortion is a public good but freedom of speech is not. Obama made this explicit when he told Planned Parenthood, “God bless you” and then went on to tell the graduates of Ohio State to reject the voices that warn that tyranny is just around the corner. If the revelations of the past few days have taught us anything, it is that the phrase “unaccountable bureaucrat” is not just a political cliché, and pace Obama’s assurances, there really is a petty tyrant that is always lurking around the corner of every page of ambiguous and ill-conceived legislation—and ObamaCare is by far the most heinous example.

President Obama claimed in a press conference yesterday that he had no knowledge of the IRS program, but this does not absolve him of responsibility. During his State of the Union address in 2010, President Obama made it clear that he was vehemently opposed to 501(c)(4) organizations engaging in political activity and urged Congress to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Perhaps, like the knights who killed Saint Thomas á Beckett after hearing Henry II wish for his death in a fit of rage, the IRS employees were just trying to please their boss.

"Paying the Tax," by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, c.1620

“Paying the Tax,” by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, c.1620

This should give us pause when we consider the wide-ranging powers granted to the IRS under ObamaCare. Indeed, the landmark ruling of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius only upheld ObamaCare by interpreting its most onerous provisions as an exercise of the taxing power. Liberal pundits echo Obama’s claim that we have nothing to fear, but they said the same thing about the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups. In this light, the words of the Declaration of Independence reverberate through the centuries as a warning that is just as relevant today, “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.” The HHS contraceptive and abortifacient mandate is only a foretaste of what is to come.

In the age of Obama, we can no longer hope that the executive branch will exercise prudence and sound judgement in the enforcement of the law. Whenever the law allows for discretion, it also allows for abuse. As far as we know, this scandal is not the product of some Nixonian conspiracy, although the scope and longevity of the IRS program do not reflect well on Obama’s leadership if nobody ever thought to bring it to his attention. As the saying goes, “A fish rots from the head down.”

Most likely, these abuses are simply the result of an incompetent and ineffectual President who despises the citizens that elected him and takes no interest in the task of governing when it does not suit his latest initiative to remake American society. If we can take Obama at his word, the IRS employees were simply left to their own devices without proper oversight. It is only natural that they would follow the example of a President who never misses an opportunity to chastise his conservative opponents and to politicize every function of the government under his control. Sadly, in his peevish aloofness, Obama is the pettiest tyrant of them all.

Correction Note: the original version of this article referred to the debt ceiling debate as taking place in May 2012 when it was in fact the summer of 2011.

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About Author

Joshua Bowman joined in full communion with the Catholic Church in 2010 after many years in the spiritual wilderness. He recently moved back to his beloved native Virginia from Columbus, Ohio with his growing family and writes on religion, politics, history, and geographical curiosities.

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