Friday, June 27, 2014

No One Likes Paying Taxes....But

No one likes paying taxes. But we accept the obligation of taxation in return for an effective government that promotes the public interest. Americans work hard for their money. We expect the state to use our resources wisely to ensure security, protect orderly commerce, and provide certain benefits to our families and fellow citizens.

When an arm of government abuses power or unfairly applies the law, it causes serious alarm. Our system is built upon public trust.

The Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) is under intense scrutiny for a pattern of disturbing behavior. Congressional investigations have unearthed statistics that suggest the agency is plagued by ideology. The IRS seems to have discriminated against organizations and individuals for their religious beliefs or political views. Confidential tax information has been released, violating the law. People have been targeted with heightened scrutiny—apparently for no other reason than their political affiliation.

Now a new problem has surfaced: six hard drives from the IRS are missing. A committee unearthed that fact buried within a lengthy report to Congress. There’s a certain irony when the organization that demands that Americans keep their tax returns for seven years has not kept its own records secure.

A lack of clarity from the agency about the facts behind the scandal has made the situation worse. The former director of the IRS has been held in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify at hearings.

Actions have been taken to address the problem. The House of Representatives passed a bill that would take away the salaries of anyone who has been held in contempt of Congress. There is discussion of a special prosecutor to remove any hint of politics from the investigation and to prevent the IRS from stonewalling. The Appropriations Committee that I serve on has cut the agency’s budget, banned bonuses and awards, and prohibited funds for certain conferences.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that some persons within the IRS have strayed from an essential American principle, undermining faith in our own government. Of all agencies the IRS bears a special responsibility to act with impartiality and fairness—to uphold the public trust. It must be absolutely disinterested when enforcing the law. Failing in this charge has increased the cynicism Americans already feel toward the government. This is not just one more scandal among many. Such an abuse of power can rock the foundation of the Republic.

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

He is a member of the following Caucus groups:

Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus

Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

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