Time: Fri Oct 17 04:59:23 1997
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Date: Fri, 17 Oct 1997 04:56:39 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: IRS: Form Follows Function (fwd)

>Topic: IRS
>Form Follows Function ****
>Wall Street Journal
>October 16, 1997 Editorial
>Not to be used for commercial purposes
>              Review & Outlook
>              Form Follows Function
>              Jolted by the image of tax collectors testifying
>              behind screens like so many members of the Cosa
>              Nostra, the nation's politicians are now racing to
>              reform the Internal Revenue Service. The acting IRS
>              Commissioner issued an apology. Before the
>              President took off on his Latin trade junket, he
>              dropped a limp list of fixes that are supposed to
>              make the agency friendlier. He called for a
>              private-sector board to oversee the tax agency.
>              Republicans, and Democratic colleagues such as Bob
>              Kerrey of Nebraska, want wider reform. They want
>              outsiders to run the place.
>              Let's not kid ourselves. This problem isn't going
>              away with the installation of extra phone
>              lines--the President's proposal. Nor is it about
>              getting CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to provide
>              the agency with "better governance." Nor is it
>              about a "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" (Ways and Means
>              Chairman Bill Archer). Nor is this about putting
>              "new people in charge who will hold the IRS's feet
>              to the fire" (Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio).
>              No. Here we'll commit that big 1990s faux pas of
>              being "ideological" and say that this is one public
>              problem we can't "reform" ourselves out of. The IRS
>              outrage is the outrage of big government
>              bureaucracy itself. Form follows function. This is
>              what they do.
>              Government bureaucrats, even nasty IRS agents, want
>              to survive like everyone else. In the long run,
>              therefore, they will do whatever they can to keep
>              their jobs and even expand them. And they will
>              subvert any efforts to widen accountability or
>              improve governance and therefore efficiency because
>              those efforts threaten their budget, their labor
>              force, their existence. Economist James Buchanan
>              won a Nobel Prize in 1986 for explaining all this.
>              Since World War II the tax arena has provided a
>              nice example of the Buchanan dynamic at work.
>              Back in the 1950s, the famous King Commission
>              uncovered terrible corruption at the Bureau of
>              Internal Revenue. Treasury officials went to jail.
>              The nation reeled and our politicians put through a
>              famous de-politicizing reform. They went so far as
>              to change the agency's name to something that, at
>              the time, must have sounded more
>              user-friendly--Internal Revenue Service.
>              Yet the 1950s reforms didn't stop John Kennedy from
>              finding ways to use the agency to torture political
>              opponents. Richard Nixon himself was audited
>              numerous years in a row before becoming President,
>              a fact that probably goes a long way toward
>              explaining a lot of his bizarre White House
>              behavior. Watergate brought another round of
>              "depoliticization," when Washington made it a
>              felony for the White House to order an audit. All
>              the while, though, the welfare state was spreading
>              and, by definition, expanding the agency's mandate.
>              In the Clinton era IRS enforcement has had a
>              different tone. Perhaps some agents have broken the
>              law in an effort to help the President or his
>              party. Others more likely just guessed what might
>              please their masters. It has somehow come to pass,
>              in any event, that supposedly independent agents
>              concluded it was right and necessary for them to
>              investigate "conservative" organizations from the
>              Heritage Foundation, to Jack Kemp's Tax Commission,
>              to the National Rifle Association. The NRA learned
>              of its audit about two weeks after Mr. Clinton
>              publicly dumped on it. Al Gore's favorite Buddhist
>              Temple has said nothing about attracting the
>              agency's normally hair-trigger curiosity.
>              Ultimately, though, we suspect that the best
>              explanation for what the IRS has become is that its
>              job is to feed the fattest government in the
>              history of the world. The politicians want the
>              money to do whatever they imagine constitutes the
>              public good, and the IRS goes out and gets it for
>              them. The combination has turned field agents into
>              tiny but powerful Terminators who mindlessly blast
>              taxpayers in a desperate drive to meet quotas and
>              improve collections.
>              Thus the unfortunate targeting of small businesses
>              over the issue of payroll taxes, a targeting so
>              intense that the National Federation of Independent
>              Businesses has made tax reform its number one goal
>              for 1998. And thus the targeting of those among the
>              working poor who get caught in the tangle of social
>              engineering known as the Earned Income Tax Credit.
>              So yes, probably Clinton-inspired abuse causes some
>              of the trouble. But big government, the kind the
>              Clintons stand for, is the greater cause of
>              creating a voracious IRS. In the early 1950s, the
>              time the IRS got its new name, local, state and
>              federal tax receipts were around 23% of GDP. Now,
>              well into what is supposed to be an era of
>              globalization and government downsizing, that
>              figure is over 30%, and total government commands
>              about 40% of GDP.
>              The IRS and its sister agencies on the state level
>              are the machines that reap that giant harvest. Any
>              reform that doesn't make government smaller won't
>              stall their progress.
>              Copyright ) 1997 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All
>              Rights Reserved.

Paul Andrew Mitchell, Sui Juris      : Counselor at Law, federal witness 01
B.A.: Political Science, UCLA;   M.S.: Public Administration, U.C.Irvine 02
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