A Philosopher's Blog

Tea, Taxes and Tyranny

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on May 15, 2013
Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somewhat ironically, during the 2012 campaign season the IRS decided to flag for review applications for tax-exempt status from groups whose names included “Tea Party” or “patriots.”  Not surprisingly, this has created some furor. While an IRS spokesperson has claimed that the extra attention was not at the behest of the Obama administration and an apology has been issued, this matter certain deserves greater scrutiny.

As should come as no surprise, Republicans (and some Democrats) have already called for a congressional investigation and a review by the administration.

The obvious point of concern is that the IRS was involved in partisan politics. After all, groups with “Tea Party” and “patriot” in their names would generally tend to be anti-Obama (if not pro-Romney) and if they were singled out for special review, this would certainly suggest partisan motivation. What would be more damning would, of course, be evidence that the IRS denied tax-exempt status unfairly to groups with such names. As it stands, the IRS claims that none of the groups in question were rejected (at least not yet).

While such flagging for review would seem to be partisan, perhaps the motivation was not partisan. An alternative explanation is that the IRS folks involved in this were concerned that such groups might be more likely to have “problematic” applications because of the Tea Party’s view of taxes (that they are taxed enough already) and hence flagged them for more careful review on that basis.  While such a motivation (if it actually existed) might be understandable, it would still be problematic in that it would still have the effect of targeting on partisan lines and the IRS should avoid even the appearance of being partisan.

It might also be the case that folks involved were concerned that such groups would be more likely to be involved in partisan politics, which is supposed to deny them tax-exempt status. However, if they only flagged “Tea Party” and “patriots” rather than any phrases  or words that would be indicative of partisan politics, then they could be justly accused of focusing on conservative groups. This would, obviously enough, be unjust.

The IRS also endeavored to play the usual “rogue employee” gambit. In this case, the claim is that the targeting was the work of a few lower level revenue agents in Cincinnati rather than as a general policy taken by the IRS.  If this can be proven, there would still be a problem-but obviously not as bad as having the IRS engaged in such behavior as a matter of general policy. If it can be proven that this matter reaches up the chain of command, it would be rather bad for the IRS and also for the Obama administration.

On a somewhat related note, there are also concerns that while the IRS flagged certain applications, the agency has been lax in enforcing the law forbidding tax-exempt  501(c)(4) groups from engaging in partisan politics. While these groups can collect anonymous money and spend it on advertising, they cannot endorse candidates or parties. They can, however, engage in political advertising, provided they at least make a token effort at creating the illusion that they are non-partisan. Thanks to the absurd Citizens United decision, corporations can spend unlimited money in federal elections and they have certainly been doing so, to the detriment of democracy in America.

While I am concerned about the claim that the IRS has engaged in partisan politics, I am also concerned that the law essentially allows the creation of tax-exempt fronts for money to be funneled into “non-partisan” political advertising for the left and the right. As might be imagined, to not even properly enforce such a toothless law would be a serious failure on the part of the IRS.

 

 

 

 

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  1. WTP said, on May 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Mike, shilling for the Dems. Ignoring information readily available in even the left-leaning media that this problem was not just isolated to the Cincinnati office. A reporter in St. Louis got pressure from the IRS after he gave a tough interview to Obama during the 2012 campaign. A Tea Party group in Florida chose to disband after getting excessive scrutiny and unreasonable requests for private information and having their president audited. “Progressive” organizations acknowledged that they received private information on conservative groups via the IRS. As if the John Stewart video TJ posted wasn’t rediculous enough. Mike, you work on the public dime. Should you be shilling for one political party over another? Perhaps you can argue it’s not illegal, but as an “expert” on ethics, I ask you is it ethical?

    He’s even moved to the left of The Daily Beast:

    Is it possible to defend the president who is bugging your phone, whose IRS is knocking at the door of political opponents, who still refuses to tell us what he was doing on September 11, 2012, while American were dying under brutal siege?

    Barack Obama is an American president, not a hero or icon. Presidents make mistakes. We’ll all be a lot better off if this can start a more realistic assessment of his strengths and weaknesses, his good days and his bad. Anything less is a disservice to the man, to the office, and, most important, to the public.


    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/15/irs-doj-and-benghazi-expose-limits-of-obama-s-big-government-vision.html

  2. WTP said, on May 15, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official at the center of the decision to target tea party groups for burdensome tax scrutiny, signed paperwork granting tax-exempt status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a shady charity headed by the president’s half-brother that operated illegally for years.

    According to the organization’s filings, Lerner approved the foundation’s tax status within a month of filing, an unprecedented timeline that stands in stark contrast to conservative organizations that have been waiting for more than three years, in some cases, for approval.

    http://www.jammiewf.com/2013/so-how-did-obamas-organizing-for-action-get-irs501c4-approval-so-quickly/

  3. ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Well said. Why does no one ever call for a repeal of the 16th amendment? Seems to me the people would vote to do away with the federal income tax altogether, although the mainstream media political posturing and political advertising against such a fair and just thing would be hysterical. Before 1913 only corporations paid federal income taxes… hourly and salaried workers paid none, which is as it should be. Today corporations like GE pay no federal income taxes, and receive money from the feds to boot, while the hard working and struggling $8.00 per hour working single mom loses one day’s pay per week due to payroll deductions of local, state, federal, medicare, medicaid, and SS taxes. Leviathan would starve without working peoples’ monies, which would be the best thing to ever happen to the federal beast: starvation and death.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      I’m for reducing taxes. While the state has a legitimate role (unless we become angels, we’ll always need an organizational systems), the state should take in and spend as little as possible to fulfill its legitimate obligations. But, one primary role of the state is to ensure that wealth is distributed to those who already have wealth and to maintain grotesque inequalities by law and by force.

      • WTP said, on May 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm

        But, one primary role of the state is to ensure that wealth is distributed to those who already have wealth and to maintain grotesque inequalities by law and by force.

        Either this is sarcasm or there’s supposed to be a NOT in there somewhere. Either way, it is NOT the role of the state to redistrubute wealth. The role of the state is to maintain order such that those who know how to generate wealth can do so with minimal interfernce from each other, the state, or the mob (but I repeat myself). Of course all of this is lost on someone who doesn’t understand what wealth is, how it is created, nor the responsibilities of maintaining it. Though as I read this again, I suspect Mike’s obfuscating language is a feature of what he is trying to get away with saying, or not saying, as the case may be.

        • biomass2 said, on May 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm

          How are we defining wealth nowadays?

  4. WTP said, on May 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    From the Washington Post:
    Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-denounces-reported-irs-targeting-of-conservative-groups/2013/05/13/a0185644-bbdf-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html

    Mike: What would be more damning would, of course, be evidence that the IRS denied tax-exempt status unfairly to groups with such names. As it stands, the IRS claims that none of the groups in question were rejected (at least not yet) .

    What absolute BS. Perhaps Mike’s been reading LATimes’ hack columnist, Michael Hiltzik. A retort from the Patterico blog:

    Oh! Well, if they weren’t denied C4 status, then all is well!

    Except that, as the IG report details:

    [T]he applications for those organizations that were identified for processing by the team of specialists experienced significant delays and requests for unnecessary information.

    And again, these delays and burdensome and unnecessary requests fell primarily (if not exclusively) on one side of the aisle, and caused many conservatives to give up on obtaining tax-exempt status for their group.

    Apparently Michael Hiltzik thinks that it would be OK to have a four-hour line for Republicans at the DMV, while “progressives” speed through an express line. Hey, no Republicans were denied licenses, were they


    http://patterico.com/2013/05/15/l-a-timess-michael-hiltzik-hooray-for-the-irss-targeting-of-tea-party-groups/

    Is such a line of reasoning ethical?

  5. T. J. Babson said, on May 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    But I thought that government was fuzzy, benign force for good, like a big Teddy bear?

    But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

    Let’s not even think about the potential abuses when the Obamacare Death Panels start choosing who lives and who dies.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Well, as an idealist I am an anarchist, so my ideal world would have no need for coercive institutions. As a realist, I favor a minimal state and one that does not trample on rights and liberties. I call now not for no government, but better government.

      I trust you are joking about the death panels…

      • biomass2 said, on May 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm

        You actually thought he was joking. . .

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm

        U.S. News and World Report. Politics has already moved into medicine. You guys are in deep denial as to what is happening.

        Moreover, as a white male, your prospects don’t look very good.

        As the saying goes, if you look around the table and you don’t know who the sucker is–you’re the sucker.

        The term “death panels,” which was used to describe how the new healthcare law known as Obamacare will lead to rationing of medical care, turned off many who dismiss the idea that our government would ever let bureaucrats control the availability of treatments for American citizens.

        While the term “death panels” certainly takes it to an extreme, Americans should be aware of how government’s increased involvement in the provision of health treatments—and their understandable desire to control rising healthcare costs—will impact the availability of some medical care, and is already doing so. Moreover, experience suggests that Americans can expect decisions about best practices will be made not only with an eye toward keeping down costs, but also toward politics.

        For example, in 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (that’s a panel charged with reviewing evidence and making recommendations for preventive services) changed their guidance on best practices for screening women for breast cancer, suggesting that women in their 40s should not have annual mammograms and older women should reduce the use of this screening device.

        The change was justified based on the high number of false positives in the prevailing testing regime, which led to lots of unnecessary stress and procedures for relatively few lives saved. Americans recoiled from the math behind the recommendations: Is it really government’s place to declare that it’s better to have one woman die from breast cancer than to have 500 unnecessary medical procedures? Such logic may work from a green-eye-shades government bureaucratic perspective, but not through the eyes of someone worried that their sister, mother, wife, or daughter might have an undiagnosed cancer. The panel claimed not to have taken cost into account, but certainly in an era of trillion-dollar deficits and with the government set to subsidize the insurance of millions more Americans, costs will have to be a consideration, if they really aren’t already.

        Breast cancer groups—known for their omnipresent pink-ribbon marketing campaigns—pushed back forcefully against the recommendations, and they were joined by countless politicians, none of whom want to cross the politically-powerful breast cancer lobby. The guidance was pulled and mammogram screenings beginning at age 40 remain the norm.

        *************************************

        Americans should be concerned when it is the government, or in the case of Obamacare, a small cadre of politically-influenced bureaucrats that comprise the Independent Payment Advisory Board, who are tasked with making a cost-benefit analysis for all Americans.

        http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/12/10/the-truth-behind-obamacares-death-panels

        • T. J. Babson said, on May 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm

          To repeat:

          Moreover, experience suggests that Americans can expect decisions about best practices will be made not only with an eye toward keeping down costs, but also toward politics.

          • biomass2 said, on May 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm

            Yet the same paragraph begins “While the term “death panels” certainly takes it to an extreme. . .”
            You weren’t joking, were you. . .

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 15, 2013 at 6:25 pm

          Well, we already face the insurance companies deciding what is necessary and hospitals often overcharging to extremes. We do need reform, but I infer the current reform law will solve few problems.

          • WTP said, on May 15, 2013 at 8:59 pm

            So tell me TJ, do you see through this load of crap Mike just threw up here? You do understand that it’s much, much easier to change your health care and insurance than it is to change your government, correct?

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 9:11 am

              Mike seems to be in denial that by taking over health care the government has extended the political realm into medical care. Now, the question of how medical resources are distributed will become a political decision rather than a medical/economic one.

              I am comfortable with medical decisions being made on a cost/benefit basis. But like the business with mammograms shows, these decisions are now subject to lobbying efforts. If you have the most powerful lobby, you will get more medical resources.

              I don’t understand how Mike can be comfortable with this.

              I can easily imagine a scenario 20 years from now in which “privileged” white males will not get medical care in favor of underprivileged groups. It is just a matter of fairness, right?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 16, 2013 at 10:40 am

              Medical care has political for quite some time. After all, there are laws governing health care that predate the current legislation. The players all lobbied heavily over such things as drug pricing, insurance pricing, and so on. It is not the case that the new act suddenly made health care a political thing.

              As far as being denied care, that is already a problem as is the matter of what is covered. To use one example, a month before my quadriceps tendon tear, BC/BS stopped covering the brace that is medically necessary for the treatment. The doctors at the TOC all agreed the brace was necessary and they certainly disagreed with the insurance company decision to not cover it. Since the braces are all priced on the assumption that insurance would cover them, I had to shuck out about $500 for the brace. Way too expensive, but I needed it. Damn bureaucrats came between me and my doctor! They offered to death panel me early, but I declined.

              I am not sure where your fear of white male abuse is coming from. Obamacare is not going to take away my insurance nor compel my doctor to ignore white men.

            • ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

              Can we foresee the day when a national healthcare system would require double mastectomies, in order to be cost effective? Today such a thing is voluntary… in the future it will be required.

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 10:07 am

              TJ:
              “I am comfortable with medical decisions being made on a cost/benefit basis.” It doesn’t seem that Mike is arguing with you there. “Well, we already face the insurance companies deciding what is necessary and hospitals often overcharging to extremes.” He seems very UNcomfortable having insurance companies– and hospitals, drug companies, etc.—conducting the “death panels”.
              “I am comfortable with medical decisions being made on a cost/benefit basis.” So how do we get there in way that you, Mike, and let’s toss in WTP, might be comfortable with? Workable suggestions?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 16, 2013 at 10:46 am

              There have been some successful ideas implemented on the local level regarding controlling costs that could be widely implemented. We need at least a two pronged approach: cutting costs of services for patients and reducing operating costs for doctors. I have several fiends who are doctors and some run their own businesses. They say what many small business owners say: operating expenses are really killing them. In the case of docs, the high cost of insurance hurts them. They do also note the problems they have with Medicare and how it is run.

              We can fix this problem-not perfectly, but it could be improved a great deal. Part of the solution is to wean some folks from their obsession with scoring partisan points at the expense of actually solving problems. What good is racking up points by allowing or contributing to serious problems?

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 10:10 am

              And , lest I forget, Mike also writes “We do need reform, but I infer the current reform law will solve few problems.” Sounds like the current law takes him out of his ‘comfort zone ‘.

            • WTP said, on May 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

              TJ, OK…I was kinda looking for a yes or no there, but what I’m getting at is, do you really think Mike is “in denial” or purposefully deluding himself? And by the latter, I mean prevaricating. Which implies something other than a pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. If you believe he is genuinely sincere, what do you think prevents him from understanding what I stated above? He’s a highly educated person, after all. Have you given any serious consideration that perhaps he argues from a position of conscious deception?

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

              “Yes” or “no” to which question?
              And since it’s a “load of crap”, why ask?

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

              “Medical care has political for quite some time.”

              Not in the same way. Examine what happened in the case of mammograms. The original recommendation was made on the basis of cost/benefit. Women’s groups got this changed on the basis of political power. This is new and very disturbing.

              Also the cost shifting in the ACA is very political. Women use far more medical resources than men, yet now their health insurance costs are the same. Moreover, young people who use very little medical care must now subsidize old people who use a lot.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

              You contend that women pushed on the matter of mammograms as a matter of politics? Do you see a conspiracy of hooters?

              As far as the youth subsidizing the elderly:
              1. The youth are subsidized by their elders as they go through school.
              2. When the youth grow old, they will be subsidized in turn by the new youth.

              This seems to just be a case of each generation taking its turn.

              True, the youth who die young do get ripped off, but being dead it probably is not a big worry for them.

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm

              “TJ, OK…I was kinda looking for a yes or no there, but what I’m getting at is, do you really think Mike is “in denial” or purposefully deluding himself? And by the latter, I mean prevaricating.”

              No, I think he is a true believer. He will be in shock when he realizes he has been shafted by the Dems because I don’t think he sees it coming.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm

              I don’t trust “the Dems.” I Expect the politicians to be similar to the insurance companies: mainly interested in what is in it for them, with some rare exceptions.

              I can get any insurance I want, as long as I find a job that offers said insurance as an option or I win the lottery and can afford any insurance available.

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

              TJ: It’s always disturbing when some else (especially a group that was previously weak/under-represented) gets and wields political power.

              That “Women use far more medical resources than men ” should come as no surprise. They carry what will be the next generation of Americans in their stomachs. Their life expectancy is greater. According to SS estimates, if a man or woman lives to 65, the woman will live to 85 and the man to 83.

              A basic philosophical difference kicks in when it comes to determining the extent of a man’s responsibility for his fellow man. Even if it’s one American’s responsibility for another American..

            • WTP said, on May 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

              TJ, let’s put the political aspect of this aside for a moment. So you believe that such a simple, somewhat obvious fact like I stated above, that it is easier to change one’s insurance provider AND healthcare provider than one’s government, is a concept beyond the comprehension of a man with a PhD from Ohio State University? If you believe this to be the case, does it point to a serious flaw in the numerous higher education systems through which he matriculated?

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm

              biomass, women outnumber men and have been voting for a very long time, so in what sense are they under-represented?

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 2:52 pm

              “So you believe that such a simple, somewhat obvious fact like I stated above, that it is easier to change one’s insurance provider AND healthcare provider than one’s government, is a concept beyond the comprehension of a man with a PhD from Ohio State University?”

              I’m sure Mike would agree with this statement. What I don’t think he understands is how often power gets abused by the government. In O’s case it has been particularly egregious because the press has shown no interest in probing for the truth.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm

              Oh, I was a Poli-Sci major as well. I studied the abuses of power and I am quite familiar with how politics works. In philosophy, I also studied folks like Locke, Rousseau and the founders- they laid out quite clearly the dangers of tyranny.

              I’ve also been in the academy long enough to see how people misuse even petty amounts of power. One reason I endure so many committees (9 last semester) is to try to ensure that faculty and students are treated justly.

              Given all that I have written about abuses of power and tyranny, why would anyone think that I do not get the dangers presented by immoral or incompetent folks in power?

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm

              TJ:
              “biomass, so in what sense ARE they under-represented?” They’re not.

              You said at 12:29 “Women’s groups GOT this changed on the basis of political power. This IS new and very disturbing.”
              I replied “It’s always disturbing when some else (especially a group that WAS PREVIOUSLY weak/under-represented) GETS and WIELDS POLITICAL power. ” One key to the answer to your question is in the tenses used: “was previously” (past) v. “gets and wields”.

              I believe a more important key to our misunderstanding here is that I’m trying to emphasize how the stronger feel when the weaker finally learns how to make the most of the power it has. Checking a box at the polls is a vote. But having the vote is only one part of the equation. Finally reaching a point where the power of that vote can be used effectively tends to scare the people who have had the lobbying power for much too long.

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm

              biomass, the disturbing part was that lobbying efforts on the part of women’s groups trumped medical policy. Medical policy should be decided by doctors based on medical science.

              Women have had political clout for a long time, so there is nothing new about that.

              As far as insurance rates are concerned, boy drivers under 25 pay more than girl drivers under 25 because statistically boys are more expensive to insure.

              Similarly, women should pay more for health coverage than men because statistically they are more expensive to insure.

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

              “What I don’t think he understands is how often power gets abused by the government.”
              I don’t think that’s the case at all. From what I’ve come to realize as I’ve followed this blog, he also gets the importance of government relative to its potential for misuse. Anyone who lived through Watergate understands it. Any system is subject to abuse by those who wish to abuse their power.

              There is a delicate balance to be sought between anarchy in its purest sense and total government control. The Founders, I believe, understood this. The systems they put in place for amending their text and changing the amendments are very complex. The system they developed to create laws that work within the framework of the Constitution is very complex. I don’t believe that men who were wise enough to approve the first two amendments, amendments people die for, failed to realize the potential for corruption that is built into this very human system.

            • WTP said, on May 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm

              I can get any insurance I want, as long as I find a job that offers said insurance as an option or I win the lottery and can afford any insurance available.

              I’ve purchased my own health insurance before. True, it’s costly, but it depends on what you’re looking for. Expecting medical insurance to pay for anything under $1000 is costly and rather rediculous for most people, but that is where the unions have driven their contracts, thus affecting how corporations offer insurance to even their non-union members. The result of this nonsense is that people, and Mike does this constantly, conflate insurance with medical care. It is in the individual’s best interest to select his/her own routine medical care. You don’t expect your home owner’s insurance to cover a leaky pipe unless it does considerable damage. You don’t expect your auto insurance to cover oil changes, tune ups, or even engine failure. If you look for catastrophic coverage you can find it. Granted there are numerous problems with the current system(s) in place but they are mostly due to the consumer being separated from the decision making process. Throwing that process into the hands of the government is not going to magically resolve the problem and will certainly make it more costly. Any basic understanding and study of economic systems will tell you that. In the end, someone has to pay the bill.

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

              TJ @3:30
              “Medical policy should be decided by doctors based on medical science.” I agree. It’s a grand notion. How many committees will be required to separate the valid science from the science people with moral axes to grind support?
              “Women have had political clout for a long time, so there is nothing new about that.” I disagree. Clout, as in PAC clout is still unequal to male clout. There’s a disparity in pay. Note the number of female positions in Congress. Note women in CEO positions.
              “As far as insurance rates are concerned, boy drivers under 25 pay more than girl drivers under 25 because statistically boys are more expensive to insure. Similarly, women should pay more for health coverage than men because statistically they are more expensive to insure.” I definitely take issue with that. The reasons for coverage differences we’re talking about here are a bit different. Boys as a whole are more likely to take risks. This “trait” is one of those differences men point to when they “want” to emphasize the differences between the sexes. These risks are largely matters of choice. Much of a female’s medical cost comes with her property (womb, breasts, etc.) And many of the problems with that equipment do not arise from loose morals.

              My apologies. I criticized your tense shifts for creating confusion. After looking at my 3:15 in preparing this reply, I feel like hanging my head in shame.
              For “how the stronger feel when the weaker finally learns how to make the most of the power it has”
              try ” how the stronger group feels when the weaker group finally learns how to make the most of the power it has”
              ‘Make “some” “someone” : “. . .when someone else. . .”

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm

              “You contend that women pushed on the matter of mammograms as a matter of politics? Do you see a conspiracy of hooters?”

              From the article quoted above:

              For example, in 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (that’s a panel charged with reviewing evidence and making recommendations for preventive services) changed their guidance on best practices for screening women for breast cancer, suggesting that women in their 40s should not have annual mammograms and older women should reduce the use of this screening device.

              The change was justified based on the high number of false positives in the prevailing testing regime, which led to lots of unnecessary stress and procedures for relatively few lives saved. Americans recoiled from the math behind the recommendations: Is it really government’s place to declare that it’s better to have one woman die from breast cancer than to have 500 unnecessary medical procedures? Such logic may work from a green-eye-shades government bureaucratic perspective, but not through the eyes of someone worried that their sister, mother, wife, or daughter might have an undiagnosed cancer. The panel claimed not to have taken cost into account, but certainly in an era of trillion-dollar deficits and with the government set to subsidize the insurance of millions more Americans, costs will have to be a consideration, if they really aren’t already.

              Breast cancer groups—known for their omnipresent pink-ribbon marketing campaigns—pushed back forcefully against the recommendations, and they were joined by countless politicians, none of whom want to cross the politically-powerful breast cancer lobby. The guidance was pulled and mammogram screenings beginning at age 40 remain the norm.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 17, 2013 at 8:35 am

              Out of curiosity I asked a radiologist friend about this. Her view is that the mammogram is generally a good idea but that there are legitimate concerns, perhaps best addressed by individual doctors based on the individual patients.

              So, is the breast cancer lobby malignant?

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 6:05 pm

              “Clout, as in PAC clout is still unequal to male clout.”

              ??? What powerful groups are are promoting the welfare of men?

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 7:17 pm

              TJ: My best guess would be most major corporations that are dominated by men—oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, etc It’s possible that the concerns that these corporations and boards push with their money are, primarily, white, male concerns.
              Google —corporations and boards still dominated by males.
              You’ll find articles like this:
              http://technorati.com/business/article/newsflash-corporate-boards-still-largely-white/

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 8:57 pm

              So biomass, are you really arguing that organization run by men automatically promote male welfare and organizations run by women automatically promote female welfare?

              My son’s teachers are all female, and so is the director of his school. Should I be worried that they are not promoting his welfare?

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 10:16 pm

              Dear Abby:
              “My son’s teachers are all female, and so is the director of his school. Should I be worried that they are not promoting his welfare?” T.J.B.

              TJ: Probably not. As a teacher, my welfare was linked closely to my students’ welfare and vice versa.
              Anyway, comparing this to oil and big pharma interests and their PACs is a bit of a poorly-aimed stretch. Believe me, a teacher doesn’t have millions and possibly billions of his and his company’s money riding on choosing to ignore the interests of the general public ( stockholders, bondholders and the like excepted).

              Your caring friend,
              Abby

        • biomass2 said, on May 15, 2013 at 6:27 pm

          TJ:
          You— Obamacare Death Panels
          USNews— “death panels” See the difference? No?
          Note the beginning of the next paragraph in the article. “While the term “death panels” certainly takes it to an extreme. . .” See the difference yet?
          And, lest we forget, those were ex-hopeful-Vice-President Sarah Palin’s Death Panels. A political twinkle in her eye. Just a bit of political demagoguery. Are you joining the Palin Pack, or have you always been a member.?

          • T. J. Babson said, on May 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm

            Like a rainbow to a caddis, biomass…

            • biomass2 said, on May 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm

              You feed on the likes of Sarah? You’re a big’un, TJ, and she’s just fattening you up.

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 15, 2013 at 9:23 pm

              Good one, biomass–an Alaskan rainbow!

              I’m giving you a thumbs up.

            • T. J. Babson said, on May 18, 2013 at 9:34 am

              I found a fitting counter-video. Here is a “mama grizzly” up close and personal…

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      While I have no direct experience inside government, I do get to see some of the inner workings of universities. I suspect that bureaucracies can easily create situations in which people are divorced from the actualities and start thinking that really bad ideas are good ideas.

      Since I do admin stuff, I regularly ask myself (while running) “is this a stupid idea” and “does this match the actual world?” I think some people stop asking those questions…or never started in the first place.

      Then there is genuine malice to consider.

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 15, 2013 at 5:38 pm

        I’ve always believed in Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

        Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

        First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

        Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

        The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

        http://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/jerryp/iron.html

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 15, 2013 at 6:26 pm

          Don’t forget the third group-those devoted to themselves.

          • WTP said, on May 15, 2013 at 8:57 pm

            The third group are the incompetents who exist soley for the empire building purposes of the second. So long as they make no effort and keep their traps shut, the bureaucrats tolerate and even reward them. After all, it’s just those suckers in the first group that are actually needed to get the (minimum) work done. And for the most part, they’re self-motivated. This is how bureaucracies fail to achieve the success of those devoted to their work, which has some overlap with people devoted to themselves when such people are consume by their work. I worked for NASA and other government contractors, I know the routine. Believe me, NASA is not much more efficient than your local DMV. Thus is why their chickens have come home to roost.

        • biomass2 said, on May 15, 2013 at 9:45 pm

          TJ
          Doesn’t Pournelle also write SF from time to time? SF writers are known for charging their audiences for a literary amusement ride down a slippery slope to some possible or impossible end.

          Also, sometimes the “Iron Laws” are changed in noticeable ways—Ex: Go to Wikipedia’s Jerry Pournelle article, “Iron Law of Bureaucracy “section. His first version of his “IRON Law of Bureaucracy” stated “. . .SOMETIMES are eliminated entirely” . That was later ‘restated’ —apparently Jerry got a signal from on high to change the iron content. The “‘New, Updated, Improved, Never-to-be-Altered” Blessed-by-God’ Iron Law of Bureaucracy” states that “in ALL cases, the second type of person will ALWAYS gain control of the organization, and will ALWAYS write the rules under which the organization functions”.

          I wonder what Force grabbed Jerry by the nads and made him change his world view?

          Note. CAPS for emphasis are mine.. . .(as if they’re needed).

          • T. J. Babson said, on May 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm

            A flash of brilliance, and now back to the usual stuff…thumbs down.

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 6:53 am

              The “flash” was a response to your “usual stuff”. Now more of the same from you. I know you’re capable of a reasoned response TJ(I read one once), but all I see here is your thumb. Allow me to add one . Perhaps it’ll give you a tingly feeling all up and down your spine.

            • WTP said, on May 16, 2013 at 7:24 am

              So, TJ, when you’re done playing games with this clown, I’m curious as to your perspective on something. My question at
              https://aphilosopher.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/tea-taxes-and-tyranny/#comment-28450
              Was not rhetorical. I’m interested in a serious philosophical question, to which this post leads.

            • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 7:43 am

              WTP: Just stick with ad hominems. You can do that. . .

  6. T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Seems to me that if Bush should be held accountable for FEMA’s performance during Katrina, we should hold Obama accountable for the IRS’s performance under his watch.

    • biomass2 said, on May 16, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Refresh my memory here. What did happen to Bush during and after Katrina. Was he impeached? What happened to Brown and Chertoff?

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 17, 2013 at 12:08 am

        I must have missed the memo:

        LOS ANGELES, April 26, 2013 — One day after a beautiful ceremony commemorating the George W. Bush presidential library, a bombshell was dropped by one of his former fiercest political opponents.

        Donna Brazile wrote a column praising President Bush for his handling of Hurricane Katrina. The 2005 hurricane devastated New Orleans. It also ruined Bush’s second term by obliterating the rationale for his original candidacy: competence.

        The Bush team told the world that the adults were back in charge, and the narrative out of Katrina was that Bush had failed to lead. The worst accusation came from rapper Kanye West, who claimed that Bush left people to die in New Orleans because he did not care about black people.

        The man who promised to “restore honor and dignity to the White House” was now a bumbling, racist, Southern dumb hick, the very caricature his leftist critics always wanted him to be.

        The problem is this was never true.

        West has since apologized for his remarks about Bush.

        SEE RELATED: Iraq 10 years later: George W. Bush is still right

        Donna Brazile is no ordinary woman. She is a partisan Democrat and proud of it. As Al Gore’s 2000 campaign manager, over a period of two years, her life was dedicated to keeping Bush out of the White House.

        She currently is a commentator on CNN, a network every bit as liberal as MSNBC without admitting it. Brazile also happens to be a black woman who grew up in the South. New Orleans was not just a symbol. It was her home.

        So her words about how Bush really handled Hurricane Katrina should be read over and over until those images are seared into every human mind.

        “Every member of my family was displaced by Katrina. Last year, I lost both my father and sister. But I had them with me that much longer because they were rescued from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

        “Bush understood the need for civility. I joined him despite my frustration because the need was too great for finger-pointing and blame-making. He flew to New Orleans and addressed the nation.

        “George W. Bush was good as his word. He visited the Gulf states 17 times; went 13 times to New Orleans. Laura Bush made 24 trips. Bush saw that $126 billion in aid was sent to the Gulf’s residents, as some members of his own party in Congress balked.”

        Read more: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/tygrrrr-express/2013/apr/26/donna-brazile-george-w-bush-and-truth-about-hurric/#ixzz2TWH8yTeu
        Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter

        • T. J. Babson said, on May 17, 2013 at 12:10 am

          Why let truth get in the way of bashing a Republican?

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 17, 2013 at 8:41 am

            In he cases in which I have been critical of Republicans I have endeavored to rely on actual facts.

        • biomass2 said, on May 17, 2013 at 6:25 am

          Two words: Washington Times.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 17, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Yes, but compare how these matters have been handled.

      Bush: “Heck of a job.”
      Obama: ” You’re fired.”

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 17, 2013 at 8:53 am

        He was gone in less than 2 weeks. From Wikipedia:

        On August 31, 2005, following Hurricane Katrina being named an “Incident of National Significance”, Brown was named the Principal Federal Official and placed in charge of the federal government’s response by Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff.

        On September 12, 2005, Brown announced his resignation as director of FEMA. He commented that the negative publicity surrounding him was distracting attention from the relief effort.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 17, 2013 at 9:04 am

          But Brownie was doing a heck of a job.

          While Obama could Go Bush in his remaining years, he would have to work rather hard to match the Bush era problems and failings.

          It is interesting to contrast Fox News coverage of Bush with the of Obama. It is also interesting to contrast the Republican views of then with those today. This is, of course, the political mind at work: our guy good, their buy bad.

          I have been as critical of Obama era misdeeds as I was of the Bush era misdeeds. The differences are 1) there are not as many misdeeds and 2) they have not been as bad.

          While Obama has been sending death drones out on assassination missions, he did not manufacture a war. While Obama has not closed Gitmo, he did not create it, and so on.

          Perhaps more scandals will be exposed. If so, I’ll write about them.

          • T. J. Babson said, on May 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

            He has “complete confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general,” the president said at a joint White House news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

            I assume this means Holder is on his way out.

            Furthermore, what happened to Brown was a media feeding frenzy and most of what people remember about Katrina never actually happened. Sober analyses showed that FEMA performed about the same as it always had in previous disasters.

            As to the Iraq war, let’s remember that a number of Democrats voted in favor of authorizing it. See any familiar names? Why do they get let off the hook?

            YEAs — 77
            Bayh (D-IN)
            Biden (D-DE)
            Breaux (D-LA)
            Cantwell (D-WA)
            Carnahan (D-MO)
            Carper (D-DE)
            Cleland (D-GA)
            Clinton (D-NY)
            Daschle (D-SD)
            Dodd (D-CT)
            Dorgan (D-ND)
            Edwards (D-NC)
            Feinstein (D-CA)
            Harkin (D-IA)
            Hollings (D-SC)
            Johnson (D-SD)
            Kerry (D-MA)
            Kohl (D-WI)
            Landrieu (D-LA)
            Lieberman (D-CT)
            Lincoln (D-AR)
            Miller (D-GA)
            Nelson (D-FL)
            Nelson (D-NE)
            Reid (D-NV)
            Rockefeller (D-WV)
            Schumer (D-NY)
            Torricelli (D-NJ)

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm

              The democrats who voted for the war are not off he hook. However, the members of Congress who voted for the war because they honestly believed the narrative presented to them regarding WMDs would have their hookedness mitigated.

          • WTP said, on May 17, 2013 at 9:57 am

            Mike falls for media bias every time. Someone let Chris Matthews on the air sober and he lets the cat out of the bag:

            ALEX WAGNER: I think his own personal distaste for Washington and his sense that the media, the right, the, sort of, chattering class has been unfair about his legislative record and his accomplishments sort of makes him want to flip the off switch sometimes and sort of just turn the lights out for the room and say, “You know what? I’ve done so much for this country. Why do I need to get involved in the mud pit?”

            CHRIS MATTHEWS [With a bit of contempt in his tone]: Let me tell you something. The press has generally been pro-Obama. That’s a fact. If he doesn’t think he has gotten– If he hasn’t gotten good press, he is crazy.

            WAGNER: I’m analyzing what I think may be happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

            MATTHEWS: He has gotten– Yes– Alex, they, over there, are very uninformed about the history of presidencies. This guy has probably gotten the best press since Reagan. Dana, don’t you think? You don’t have to watch Fox if you don’t want to. It’s there. But, if you don’t watch Fox, you don’t watch Limbaugh, there’s a lot of other opinion out there. I look at the major newspapers. I look at the major networks, broadcast nets. I look at us. I don’t see a lot of– CNN. Where’s all this antipathy towards Obama?

            Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2013/05/15/chris-matthews-admits-press-pro-obama-if-president-disagrees-hes-cra#ixzz2TYfJtVBG

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

        And how many times has a president says he has “full confidence” in someone, and then a few days later that person is gone?

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 17, 2013 at 8:57 am

        It appeared that President Obama had taken decisive action late Wednesday when he announced that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had demanded the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller amid the growing scandal over targeting conservative groups. But it turns out that Miller was subject to a term limit that would have forced him out of the job in three weeks.

        http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/resignation-fired-irs-commissioner-planned-leave-post-june/story?id=19193192#.UZYo2MplBc4

  7. T. J. Babson said, on May 16, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    It’s only men, so who cares…

    The suicide rate for middle-aged Americans has risen by nearly 30 percent over the past decade. This news is depressing enough on its own, but the gender breakdown is where it gets disturbing: According to the New York Times, middle-aged American men kill themselves at nearly four times the rate that women do.

    *****************

    Perhaps most shocking about this story is the relative silence with which it has been met. If women were taking their lives in record numbers, largely due to their inability to find employment or husbands, you could bet that federal tribunals, support groups, and cries for policy change would abound. But thousands of men take their own life, lost in the shadows, and much of the press seem content to let the stories remain there.

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/05/13/male-suicide-wheres-the-outcry/

    • biomass2 said, on May 17, 2013 at 6:42 am

      “If women were taking their lives. . .”
      Well, maybe, IF you put it that way. . . 🙂
      “But thousands of men take their own life, lost in the shadows, and much of the press seem content to let the stories remain there.” This is a curious statement. If they’re “lost in the shadows” how did the blogger find them? How “much of the press”? What ‘press’ does your blogger read? What does he avoid?
      “relative silence= lots of judgment
      IF I had a pick and shovel PERHAPS I could dig through the fogginess of this ‘report’, but, alas, I don’t.

      The article ‘seems to intentionally ignore’ the ‘relative complexity’ of this subject. See:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_differences_in_suicide

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 17, 2013 at 7:28 am

        You seem to care about gender disparities when it comes to CEOs, biomass.

        Suddenly they don’t matter when it comes to suicides.

        See why I worry about Dems controlling healthcare?

        • biomass2 said, on May 17, 2013 at 8:00 am

          I don’t care?
          Look at the Wiki article, Google other articles about male and female suicide, and consider the nature and source of your info about male/female suicide. Re-read my reply.
          Then reconsider your statement “Suddenly they don’t matter when it comes to suicides”. Did I say that?

          Haven’t we already established on here that we (even Mike) are very concerned about ‘who’ controls healthcare—Dems, Reps (who, seem to have no constructive input on the subject), insurance companies, big pharma, TP’ers, libertarians, or whoever). I’m just not so certain that everyone has as much concern about the big topic: the health of our citizenry f. Do we want to ground our (lack of) policy on universal health care (which most countries in the developed world offer to their citizens) on our exceptionalism?

          I’ve put this up here before, but it never gets old.
          http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/heres-a-map-of-the-countries-that-provide-universal-health-care-americas-still-not-on-it/259153/

          • T. J. Babson said, on May 17, 2013 at 8:29 am

            “I’ve put this up here before, but it never gets old.”

            Science, biomass:

            A new study suggests universal health care makes people happier but not healthier.

            A study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that—at least as far as health outcomes are concerned—the Oregon Medicaid experiment hasn’t lived up to the hopes of many universal care advocates. Two years after getting randomly assigned to Medicaid coverage, recipients fared no better than a control group of uninsured, low-income Oregonians in tests for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes treatment—all medical conditions that can be managed with proper care. The Medicaid recipients did report much lower rates of depression and—perhaps relatedly—were much less likely to be on shaky financial footing than those in the control group. But the Oregon study’s findings indicate that the claim that universal health care on its own will make Americans healthier, at least in these particular dimensions, may be wishful thinking.

            http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_dismal_science/2013/05/will_obamacare_work_a_new_study_out_of_oregon_challenges_shows_universal.html

            • biomass2 said, on May 17, 2013 at 9:09 am

              “may be wishful thinking” Based on a two year study in one state out of fifty, I’m more than willing to chuck Universal Health Care. But help me here, TJ. Is Obamacare –let’s call it the Affordable Care Act, since that’s its non-political name–universal health care?

              I’d have more confidence in longer-term studies conducted in developed countries world-wide that incorporate detailed distinctions between the approaches used there and here. EX: A twenty-year study comparing/contrasting health and happiness results in 5 or more countries. Include then a detailed comparison/contrast between those plans and ACA.

              “If you’re committed to better health for the poor, though, the latest Oregon results are not a reason to give up on the cause completely. Rather, the Oregon experiment is yet another argument in favor of the increasingly common view that access to medical care is necessary but far from sufficient for good health.” Emphasis on ‘experiment’ and ‘necessary’. Opinion articles usually have more than one paragraph, . .and more than one possible reading.

  8. WTP said, on May 16, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    TJ, you paranoid right-wing nutcase…

    Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.

  9. WTP said, on May 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm

  10. T. J. Babson said, on May 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    A recent poll shows half of young French people would leave France if they could.

    Here is an excerpt from a letter from a young French lady:

    I don’t want to work all my life in order to pay taxes that will, for the most part, only go to service the 1,900 billion euros of debt that your generation was kind enough to leave as your legacy. If these loans had at least been invested in a plan for the future of the country, if I thought I would profit a little from them, I wouldn’t have any problems repaying them. But they only allowed your generation to live above its means, to secure a generous welfare that I won’t be able to enjoy. In order to make your lives, I would say “cushy”, but I’m afraid that the word offends you.

    My work and my taxes will also have to pay your pension that you haven’t bothered to fund, as well as all the health care and welfare costs for all these elderly people who will be, in less than twenty years, the majority in the country. Will this leave me enough money to live well and raise my children? A few days ago, I read a study by economist Patrick Artus that sent shivers down my spine: “With the low potential growth and given the aging population,” he writes, “young French have the prospect of undergoing continuous stagnation of their purchasing power during their working lives.” You must admit that it this is not a very gratifying life prospect.

    But the most depressing thing is what my life will be like if I stay in France. Once I graduate, with my beautiful useless diplomas, I will without doubt first join the large ranks of unemployed youth before spending several years in internships and the CDD [temporary work contracts]. I am, as I believe the experts say, the “adjustment variable” of a labor market that has deliberately chosen to exclude young people to protect the workers of the CDI [permanent work contracts] already in place. With such insecure and poorly paid jobs, I won’t be able to convince a bank to give me a home loan to buy an apartment in Paris. And if, by some sort of improbable miracle, I go on to earn lots of money, I know in advance that not only would I have to pay taxes, but it would also earn me the reproaches of my fellow countrymen and your personal contempt.

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/05/11/hollades-france-about-to-become-the-new-mexico/

    • WTP said, on May 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      Excuses, equivocation, and sophistry begin in 3…2…1…

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

      Only half? My ancestors saw the coming storm and left in the 17th century.

  11. WTP said, on May 19, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    WTF business is the contents of one’s prayers to the government. And what would be the purpose of asking in the first place?

  12. WTP said, on June 10, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Even ex-heroine addict alcoholics understand economics better than your typical philosophy professor. Or Mike for that matter.

    From Andy Serwer’s “Inside the Rolling Stones Inc.” in Fortune magazine, Sept. 30, 2002:

    The Stones are famously tax-averse. I broach the subject with Keith in Camp X-Ray, as he calls his backstage lair. There is incense in the air and Ronnie Wood drifts in and out—it is, in other words, a perfect venue for such a discussion. “The whole business thing is predicated a lot on the tax laws,” says Keith, Marlboro in one hand, vodka and juice in the other. “It’s why we rehearse in Canada and not in the U.S. A lot of our astute moves have been basically keeping up with tax laws, where to go, where not to put it. Whether to sit on it or not. We left England because we’d be paying 98 cents on the dollar. We left, and they lost out. No taxes at all.”

  13. magus71 said, on April 9, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I think this post needs a follow-up. Anyone else agree? Anyone think that the directive for the IRS to target conservative groups came only from within the IRS?

    • T. J. Babson said, on April 9, 2014 at 8:52 am

      I’m waiting to see if the House has the cojones to file contempt charges against Lois Learner.


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