George Will and the IRS: Conservative Ideology Blinds Pundit to the IRS's Biggest Problem: Underfunding Their Watchdog Operations

It is a talking point on Fox and at the conservative caucuses that the IRS should be abolished or replaced with a more equitable taxing system such as ad valorem, no matter that institution of the latter would result in many if not most of us sleeping on discount off-brand mattresses while the Koch Cabal buys the major mattress factories (if they do not already own them). My interest in George Will as a spokesman for the Cabal (my word for the 1% owning 40% or more of the wealth) was dormant until he published in his syndicated column an obituary on the Beats, ostensibly an obit on Ginsberg in particular but a parting shot at the literary movement of which he was a part but transcended with the writing of Howl, and with his decision to live a poet's life as best he could.

How dare Will unleash a torrent of abuse, opprobrium, and downright mean invective! After reading the man's latest column, about the IRS supposedly picking on some small business owners, I decided to look Will up and learned from the documented sources at Wikipedia he once told Colbert he was "a heathen," then admitted under good questioning (can't wait for Colbert to take over where Dave left off) admitted that he was "agnostic." Later, as Wiki points out, he changed that to "atheist." This presents a predicament. Aren't all atheists leftists? Apparently not. What bothers me, though, is that Will does not make more of his non-belief. I thought his remarks about Ginsberg were born of envy and consisted of a mean-spiritedness that was most unbecoming. I blogged that while Ginsberg will be read a thousand years on, Will will be forgotten within a few years of his death. His grave should be stamped: GEORGE WILL (m-d-y) - (m-d-y), BASEBALL FAN.

Will's column on the IRS was aimed at their use of the civil forfeiture statutes to avoid due process compliance, costing a family running a mom and pop supermarket a five-figure withdrawal by government from their business account. I am as outraged by civil forfeiture laws as Will is, but not so hypocritical. Conservatives have made much ado about nothing lately in Darrell Issa's investigation into supposed targeting of Tea Party type PACS while letting opposition PACS go without watch-dogging. Did Will say anything when it was revealed that the IRS had, indeed, investigated leftist (read: Democratic and progressive) organizations as well. In other words, Will wants the IRS investigated for the wrong reasons. It interested me that Will presumes that the Service has a "profile" that his Michigan couple "fit" raising a flag waved in Service faces: "What pattern of behavior supposedly aroused the suspicions of a federal government that is ignorant of how small businesses functon?...."

Why isn't Will in favor of taxing churches when one exhibits a "pattern of behavior" indicating they are in the business of selling products, not faith. As it happens, and as I learned in Church & State, the excellent magazine of Americans United (for Separation of Church and State), the IRS has for years had criteria that may be applied to religious bodies to ascertain whether they actually sell religion and thus should continue to have tax exemption. I might start out by requesting that annual accounting be required of such organizations under penalty of imprisonment just as is required of all American taxpayers. But no, the IRS requests minimal accounting from non-profit groups in general but requests none whatever from religious institutions.

Church and State reported on the TV "ministry" of Daystar, decribed as "an evangelicalistic network based in [where else?] Bedford, Texas. The network had assets of $233 million in 2011, when they became the subject of a NPR segment, which also pointed out that the ministry is entirely electronic, so why, C&S asked, did Daystar enjoy status as a non-profit church? Elsewhere in the Tax the Churches page at FB, I have bemoaned the fact that congress will not allocate enough money to oversee the activities and antics of thieves like Pat Robertson, who should be imprisoned for fraud. (He was caught red-handed soliciting funds for a charity dispensing medical care to Africans but instead channeling the monies into diamond and gold mining operations there, operations that required bribing well know thug despots ruling the nations where the Robertson interests lay.) The IRS should get more money to investigate churches, too. They already have what Will called a "pattern of behavior" checklist, C&S reports, constituting a "14-point test to determine whether or not an organization is a legitimate church," adding that "it is rarely used these days for unknown reasons."

The test lists some "basic requirements" including:

  • Offers regular services
  • Holds religious instruction classes
  • Led by ordained ministers
  • Has a congregation

Daystar claimed that its congregation was its TV audience, but an IRS attorney said that this argument had been rejected by one court. The "church" leaders gave almost half a million dollars to Oral Roberts University -- while their children were enrolled there. (Want to bet they were magna cum laude?) They also donated to Christian schools, to their church, to a Christian marriage counseling organization, to a nursing home taking care of a parent, to sponsoring a NASCAR racer, and to Israeli lawyers who helped obtain a cable contract (no doubt in furtherance of the Rapture). One is reminded of the Tyco CEO who threw a wedding in Rome and flew in guests, put them up at deluxe hotels, and staged a veritable circus maximus of a wedding reception, complete with sword and sandal musclemen and scantily attired bathing beauties. In other words, much of the profit from the TV "church" is being spent not on charity but on the wants of the broadcasters, Marcus and Joni Lamb.

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Comment by James M. Martin on May 2, 2014 at 1:00pm

Michael Penn, yes, I recall the entire Roberts debacle re: god calling the preacher home. Americans should have caught on to the con right then and there, but no, we had the Bakkers, Swaggart, many others. Oh, and isn't it weird that Oral Roberts had offspring: Pat RobertSON.

Comment by Michael Penn on May 2, 2014 at 12:20pm

I get a lot of what you are saying on here. It also reminds me of that day when god appeared to Oral Roberts and told him "I want you to build a university of higher learning in my name." Of course, just to show that god was on the up and up with it, he allowed Roberts to name it after himself. Much later in Oklahoma, Roberts saw Jebus 70 feet tall. Later still, Roberts needed a large sum of money and told the facefull that "god would call him home if the money was not raised." Praise Thor! Roberts got the money!

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