The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 5, 2013

Our View: Fiddling like Nero

The Joplin Globe

— Let’s see if we got this straight: 1. Americans, concerned about unchecked, irresponsible federal spending — the tyranny of debt — and fed up with empty promises from the two mainstream political parties, start organizing into tea party groups to bring about change.

(The national debt is approaching $17 trillion; interest on the debt came to $220 billion last year — more than the federal government spent on food stamps or education or NASA or national parks ... you name it.)

2. These tea party groups seek nonprofit status to raise money but are baffled as to why their applications aren’t proceeding. Then we learn that they were targeted for their alleged “conservative” political bent by the supposedly nonpartisan Internal Revenue Service.

(For more than 18 months during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns, IRS agents in a Cincinnati office singled out tea party groups for excess scrutiny when they sought tax-exempt status, according to a report by J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration. These groups were probed with intrusive questions about donors, political affiliations and their positions on political issues when applying for tax-exempt status.)

3. The additional scrutiny and delays make it difficult for many of these groups to organize, raise money and get off the ground.

(A South Carolina tea party chapter official said her organization first applied for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in 2010 and three years later still waits for its application to be processed.)

4. Meanwhile, the IRS demonstrates the same arrogant indifference toward unchecked federal spending that angers taxpayers and drives them to organize in the first place.

(We learned Tuesday that the IRS spent $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012. At one conference, some of the 2,600 attendees received stays in presidential suites valued at $1,500 to $3,500 a night. In addition, 15 outside speakers were paid a total of $135,000 in fees, with one paid $17,000 to talk about “leadership through art.”)

They say Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Two thousand years later, Washington fiddles while the people burn — with anger, with discontent, with frustration.

We’re right back where we started.