The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 25, 2013

IRS could teach a class about bullying the public

By Lynn Saternow
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---- — BIG BROTHER is watching you. The premise of George Orwell’s “1984” novel certainly appears true today with moves by the IRS and the Justice Department seizing Associated Press files.

The fact the IRS appears to be out of control is certainly no surprise. That group has reigned terror over the American public since the beginning of a national income tax.

They say the only sure things in life are death and taxes. The latter is scarier for many of us. Is there anything more frightening than to be notified:

“You’re being audited!”?

We’ve all heard nightmare stories of the IRS, but it is really bad when they start targeting groups for political purposes. (Not that it hasn’t happened before.)

Supposedly the IRS was investigating conservative tea party groups, which of course is outrageous. Regardless of your political persuasion, you have the same rights as everyone else in America. To single out anyone for specific leanings is disgraceful.

Naturally it comes as a problem for the Obama administration, but in reality, has anyone ever really had control of what the IRS does except the heads of the service?

They act independently of other government agencies and supposedly no one has access to their files.

If any president questioned their methods, they probably would audit every member of his family out of spite. (Hopefully they won’t read this column.)

I always joke around that I’m getting a $3,000 rebate, unless I’m audited then I owe $20,000 plus penalties. It is only a joke because I never cheat on my income taxes because I would dread being audited.

Some people feel that cheating the IRS is the American way, but not me. It would be such a pain to pull out 7 years of information to go over with an IRS auditor.

Certainly it is questionable whether tea party groups can claim tax-exempt status. But it is the same for many other organizations and even churches where church leaders attempt to sway congregations for religious/political reasons.

There has been a lot of publicity about how the rich pay less taxes than many middle class people, simply because they have good tax lawyers who know how to find loopholes. Maybe it is time to disband the current IRS system and move to some sort of flat tax.

But even scarier to me than the IRS debacle is the seizing of the Associated Press files and phone records in a case involving a supposed national security leak.

The major problem is – when does the government have a right to decide when to grab media files?

When things like this occur it means that whistle-blowers will be afraid to come forward to the press because of fear that the government will find out who they are.

That’s why when I interview someone, I always take hand-written notes rather than use a tape recorder. With my scribble, no one could ever decipher what I had written. Even I have a hard time. Still, after this Associated Press grab, I am now considering using only edible paper.

In case of the government storming The Herald, I could gobble down some strawberry-flavored notepads, maybe topped with whipped cream. To make it even better, those notepads would be tax deductible.



The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for The Opinion Page.