We see so many wrong things being done on a daily basis that it’s rare anymore when I get angry. But the story of how Tea Party groups received an apology from the IRS for mishandling of their applications for 501(c)4 status has really upset me. In trying to sort out why this and not so many other things, I composed this letter to Jed Lewison of Daily Kos for his take on the story:
Jed, I have been trying to figure out why your post made me angry. Not at you, please understand.
It’s not that I disagree with you that it’s wrong for the IRS to target people over their political beliefs. It is wrong. But this story is part of a much larger story of selective leniency to right-wing groups and of serious harassment of left-wing groups that stretches back to Nixon. It’s the fact that the rest of us are rendered seemingly invisible by the focus on the Tea Party groups that makes me angry.
Yes, in this case, a policy decision was made that imposed an undue burden on an entire class of people. It’s wrong. People who get Food Stamps or Medicaid would have something to say about that… people who have to get drug-tested or suffer insults from talk radio and suspicion from case workers for the crime of being disabled or unemployed could say a lot about undue burdens.
But let’s think a little bit about this. The Tea Party groups had an undue burden being imposed to make it harder for them to receive a subsidy from the federal government–ironically, the same Federal government for which they have no use.
Were these groups audited? Harassed? Put out of business?
No. They just didn’t get tax-exempt status as quickly as they should have.
Indeed, many left-wing groups have suffered genuine targeting. Mother Jones magazine was almost put out of business by the IRS. All Saints Episcopal Church almost lost its tax exempt status over preaching an anti-war sermon from the pulpit. And, while these cases can be dismissed as one-offs if viewed in isolation, they form a pattern of harassment that goes back to Nixon, if not much farther.
Indeed, what makes the Tea Party story notable is that it represents an exception to the undue leniency granted to most right-wing groups. How many right-wing churches run with impunity as political operations, endorsing or smearing candidates? How many examples of Crossroads GPS and ALECs exist, organizations which are really lobbying shops or PR firms? How eager to please was the IRS when it came to Newt Gingrich’s “charitable” organizations?
This is an ideal moment to tell the story of how the reaction to this IRS abuse represents the exorbitant privilege that conservative, white groups get, even as left groups and people of color face undue burdens all the time. To my amazement, not one commentator on the liberal/left seems to have taken the opportunity.
I’m not the one to write this story. But surely someone should. How about you?
Have we Americans become so blind and hypocritical that half of this nation has become completely invisible, even to itself?