Saturday, May 18, 2013

Susan Collins: Airhead Republican

Today's Portsmouth Herald has an op ed by Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, about the IRS "scandal" over the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division, which "targeted" organizations with "Tea Party" or "Patriots" in their names for special examination to insure these organizations, which claimed their contributors should be able to claim their contributions as deductions to their own personal income taxes and which claimed their organizations should be exempt from paying taxes.

Ms. Collins is irate, irate, I tell you about the abuses of these patriotic citizens by "the most powerful and feared, federal agency in Washington." 

And she wants to tell you something else:  "The American people cannot, and will not, tolerate the abuse of power to erode their most fundamental rights."

And, she warns darkly, "Some believe that the abuses that are now making headlines appear to be part of a larger pattern of questionable activity by the administration that seems intended to hinder or chill the expression of views critical of the president's policies."

Oh, there it is, the paranoid style in American politics.
And all this from the prototypical "bipartisan" and "moderate" Republican.

Of course, this is not about the violation of free speech by organizations with "Tea Party" in their names. This is about money. 

These organizations came to government attention because they were, in essence, asking the government to subsidize their activities by tax write offs.

This same sort of argument comes up all the time with respect to churches which have a role as a religion but which also become involved in political speech and activity to influence elections, to advocate for candidates either by name or by clear implication, in the real world of policy and politics.

When it is a liberal church advocating for liberal causes the Republicans become irate, irate I tell you, about the government legitimizing their opinions by granting these churches tax exempt status.

In perhaps the most clear cut and egregious example of the trouncing of freedom of speech, Frederick v Morse, otherwise known as the  "Bong Hits for Jesus" case, Chief Justice Roberts dismissed arguments the case was about free speech because the plaintiff had asked for monetary compensation. "That means this case is not about freedom of speech. It is about money." 

But now that the right wing finds itself asked to pay for its own organizations, we have the bogey man, the IRS trampling on free speech.

Well, speech is anything but free in these 21st Century United States of America. It costs money. And what really appalls the Tea Party and its Republican mistresses and shills in Congress and the Senate is the idea any right winger should have to pay his fair share of taxes. 

It's not surprising a Republican like Senator Collins is in the pocket of the right wing party which paid for her election; but it is disappointing Democrats have allowed the Republicans to become the most outraged people in the room. Collins with her "cannot, and will not" blather and, of course, Michele Bachmann with her, "The power to tax is the power to destroy" quote. 

Yes, Chief Justice John Marshall did make that observation, Ms. Bachmann, in the 18th century when government did more taxing than spending and supporting.But it is also true, in the 21st century, exempting you from the burden of paying your fair share is a burden on every other taxpayer, and an exemption is a subsidy.

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