Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A quick note to George Will

The following was sent this morning to George Will's email address at the Washington Post, without pictures, and with the web pages supplied as footnotes instead of links (which might have redirected this to his spam folder).
Dear Mr Will,

I realize that Fox News is now paying your paycheck, so perhaps you're no longer allowed to look at any other news outlets, but, despite your conservative views, I've always felt that you were reasonably intelligent. If nothing else, you seem capable of forming coherent sentences and spelling things correctly, and these days, that counts for a lot.

However, you might be surprised to learn that you've entered some sort of information bubble. I saw your appearance on Monday's Special Report with Bret Baier, and it appears that there are some facts that you seem to be entirely unaware of.

When you said that the IRS targeting of conservative groups was one of the three biggest political scandals in the last 40 years, this lack of data became openly apparent. And while I hate to argue with a journalist of your extensive experience, I found humor in your statement that "this is not being perused and the president knows that. Hence his sense of weariness and boredom as he discussed this with Bill O'Reilly."

No, Mr Will, he was bored by it because it was a manufactured non-scandal. You see, the simple fact is, this is an example of the IRS actually doing its job, and investigating whether these groups were breaking the law; the simple fact of the matter is that political organizations do not qualify for the tax-exempt status that these groups had applied for.

Let's start from the beginning. The tax code gives us a number of different classifications based on what we do. One of them, a tax-exempt status, is designated 501(c)(4), and it's defined as "Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, ...the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes."

This allows groups to be formed to construct basketball courts for inner-city kids, build a gym for a high school, set up after-school reading programs, operate food banks, or any other activity that can be defined as "social welfare." And it goes further: to prevent people from arguing that defeating a politician would qualify as "social welfare," the IRS specifically excludes political organizations from this particular tax-exempt status.
(ii) Political or social activities. The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.
Now, here's where the story gets a little weird, Mr Will. You see, the reason that the IRS appeared to be targeting conservative groups was because of a slick little piece of misdirection. You only saw that the IRS investigated conservative groups, because the Congress only looked into the IRS actions when they involved conservative groups, and actively ignored any investigations of liberal or progressive groups.
The Treasury inspector general (IG) whose report helped drive the IRS targeting controversy says it limited its examination to conservative groups because of a request from House Republicans.

A spokesman for Russell George, Treasury's inspector general for tax administration, said they were asked by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) "to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations."
See how that works? I mean, you're a classy guy, Mr Will - you were rocking that bow tie for years after most people had abandoned it, because you felt it gave you a certain old-fashioned gravitas, I guess. So I feel certain that you would disapprove of me referring to a sitting member of Congress as a "lying bag of fuck." That, however, is the immediate reaction I get from this little revelation.

(Now, to be fair, a full listing of the groups under investigation could, at first glance, possibly have given someone the impression that conservative groups were being targeted: after all, since two-thirds of the groups approved for tax-exempt status since 2010 were conservative, you'd expect a larger percentage of them to fall under scrutiny. However, that is very different from the blatant spin that Darrel Issa put on things, isn't it?)

But after all, once even Mitch McConnell abandons a smear campaign, it's pretty clear that the whole thing has just collapsed.

Perhaps, to avoid making yourself look like a hack or a paid shill for Fox "News," you should try to restrict your comments to that nebulous realm we call "facts," instead of just repeating the latest talking points being handed out by liars and partisans? And maybe by doing that, you can come out of this with at least a small shred of the dignity you've been clinging to for years.

Don't you think that would be a good idea?


Bill Minnich (Albuquerque, NM)