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Clarity on the Missing Emails

Monday June 30th, 2014   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 7:00am PDT   •  

Koskinen_240As a showcase for speechmaking and stonewalling, the ongoing hearings on the IRS targeting campaign have generated more heat than light. Fortunately, a few moments of clarity emerged in a June 23 hearing by the House Oversight Committee. Rep. Thomas Massie, an MIT grad, explained the probability of Lois Lerner’s hard drive failing in only ten days rather than a year was one in a thousand. IRS boss John Koskinen was not impressed, but Rep. Massie wasn’t done.

He asked, “If we had a flat tax or a fair tax, would we be here today?”

“No,” responded Koskinen. “I’m a big supporter of tax simplification. I support Chairman Camp’s attempt to move that dialog forward. I’m prepared to be as helpful as I can.”

One doubts that any IRS boss supports tax simplification, but taxpayers should take Koskinen at his word that a flat tax would make targeting campaigns much more difficult. Koskinen has been completely obstructionist about the targeting campaign now under investigation, complaining that an agency with a IT budget of $1.8 billion is underfunded. Likewise, Rep. Sandy Levin of the Ways and Means Committee is on record as having said that the two years of lost emails confirm that the IRS needs more funding for a more modern system.

That is the default position of statist politicians and bureaucrats alike: The tax code, government agencies, and government employees are all basically sound; all they need is more money. With the IRS claiming poverty while paying out big bonuses, taxpayers might remain skeptical about that, and about the mysteriously missing emails. On those, Rep. Massie’s probability figures likely understate the case. A ballpark figure for the odds that the loss was accidental is zero.

Rep. Massie is also a sponsor of legislation to prohibit the National Security Agency from conducting warrantless searches of Americans’ electronic communications. As Mary Theroux noted, the NSA has been grabbing every domestic communication. If the IRS will not produce the missing emails, investigators should get them from the NSA. That way the invasive and repressive hands of government can work together.

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June 2014