Blinded by Hate: The Case of a Lemming Tea Party at the IRS

I may be incorrect as it is far removed from my discipline and areas of research, but I believe the idea that lemmings commit mass suicide is a misconception.  Suicide may not be the correct term, but from what I understand that perception of lemmings purposely killing themselves is false and the imagery of these deaths results from short stories, a Walt Disney film, and other media sources propagating the legend.  Even so, lemmings as part of their migratory patterns do follow one another and large numbers in search of a new habitat may try to swim a body of water far greater in size than their swimming capabilities allow.

Today, I have had a few conversations concerning this article in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

The summary is that a PAC supporting Senator David Vitter is seeking to have Louisiana law which limits an individual’s contributions for a candidate to $100,000.

As I wrote to some friends: My questions, however, remain the same. 

When individuals have the resources to “donate” in excess of $100,000 in support of a political candidate are they “supporting” that candidate or are they “investing” their money in the manner where they expect the greatest returns?

If “political free speech” is infringed as argued in the article by the placing a limit on individual contributions at $100,000, by default does that imply that the “political free speech” of individuals who do not have the resources to contribute in excess of $100,000 to a candidate are thereby infringed?

Contributions and tax classifications led me to a multitude of articles and people speaking of a new IRS targeting within the recently passed omnibus spending bill.  For example the Wall Street Journal ran this opinion piece by Kimberly Strassel which is being cited throughout the right wing blogosphere.

The targeting accusation is based on a new rule regarding 501(c)(4) groups which will classify the “educational” activities of these organizations as “political.”  Since this new interpretation will apply to all social and welfare organizations with this tax exempt status, many Tea Party groups are denouncing the change as unfair, targeting, and discrimination against them.

Personally, I do not favor this new rule.  My preference would be to eliminate this classification entirely.  I really cannot comprehend how anyone in the United States, regardless of one’s political ideology, would want and actually champion the practice of influence and perhaps control over an election or elected official by secret entities.


When the initial profiling scandals were going full blast in the media, I covered various aspects and cited the resources to illustrate just a few of the issues and why none of what happened shocked me just as a member of the general public, let alone as a Professor of Political History who is also married to a Political Scientist.

Many friends disagree with me, but I still argue that if individuals and businesses appear to have unlimited funds to donate to individual political candidates, they have the resources to create jobs and rebuild the infrastructure. It is more profitable, however, to invest and (my words) “buy” favorable legislation or prevent new legislation than it is to build their own business.

Previous Information:

The Profiles in Patriotic Tea offers some background about why this situation should not have surprised anyone.  While it is dry reading in that one needs to read through the links for information, it is a starting point to help understand all of these controversies.

The lack of surprise theme is continued In IRS to Profile or Not, where a possible solution is suggested:

Take the simple route here, abolish the 501(c)(4) status and regardless of if a group engages in “Issue” or “Election” advocacy, the group is placed in the 527 status.  That eliminates the many gray areas.  That applies to “conservative,” “moderate,” “liberal,” and any other accurate or inaccurate buzzword label of the day.  That applies to “big,” “small,” “grassroots,” oak tree roots,” and so on.

The other thing is to simplify the tax code.

Back in August I wrote:

I wonder why the IRS situation is advertised as a conservative versus liberal or Republican versus Democrat battle when it is actually a question of do you want to know the identities of those financing the individual candidates.

I wonder why if the economy is in such bad shape and the “job creators” are unable to invest which many argue would create jobs and keep this great country afloat, how are many of these same “job creators” able to make such large donations to political groups.  I don’t know about you, but common sense tells me that the return on investment must be higher on controlling a politician than on rebuilding infrastructure.

The tax code needs to be reformed, and it is not as simple as a flat tax or a fair tax as we sometimes here.  There are many individual areas which must be addressed and that will take time.  I do know that the assignment will not be popular, and thus Congress will not take it on until the general public stops sniping at one another over perceived differences in the partisan atmosphere and just demands Congress to work at your job just as we do.

To quote from a friend and former colleague:  “When people wonder why tax reform is so difficult, consider this.  Prudent tax reform would be political suicide for legislators to support because Americans are more interested in their selfish pursuits rather than the collective pursuit of a broader, prosperous nation.”

I wonder why many are in uproar over tax exempt statuses, but say nothing about the numbers of people caught in the red tape quagmire of trying to receive money they actually earned and is needed to pay for food and housing but are left in this predicament because media and those profiting off of partisanship and this investigation boondoggle buy the public’s attention.  I guess it must be a scandal of a scandal to have the public’s blessing on a never ending boondoggle.

Are people so blinded by hate, that everything has become as simple as “Republican,” “Democrat,” “Tea Party,” and “Progressive?” 

A frustrating part from the view of one who teaches US History is that many of the rights and freedoms claimed by the Tea Party actually have a Constitutional base. What’s frustrating is that even with that Constitutional base, many assume that those rights and freedoms have existed since ratification of the Constitution or in some cases the Declaration of Independence.  The reality, though, is that those rights and freedoms enjoyed today by so many are only because of the interpretations of later generations such as the Populists of the 19th century and later the Progressives at the beginning of the 20th century.  For most Americans of today, those rights did not exist for you under the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Period, upon ratification of the Constitution and later ratification of the Bill of Rights , the Federalist Period, and beyond.

People who disagree with me will sometimes cite, and cite within an accurate context, many of the Enlightenment philosophies and writings.  I’ll agree with the words and ideas, but ideas do not mean necessarily mean practiced. In history we look for those principles to actually exist in practice and not just thought.  Admittedly that makes the study of history more difficult than some believe because there is typically more to the story than our initial impressions.

The fact is that through much of US History we have had a highly complex system where thought and practice were not uniformly distributed or applied within some predictable statistical computation.  It might scare some, but often luck played as great a role as any in us being where we are today.

What astonishes me is when people argue in favor of rights and freedoms, but only for those privileges to be bestowed upon them and others who are similar to them.  What frightens me is that as long as others say what they want to hear, they really don’t care who that other individual or group might be.  They’ll make everyone else the object of all blame.  They’ll discredit specific individuals or groups.  Yet, they are too blinded to realize that some of these people and groups they so adamantly oppose may in fact be that entity which remains hidden behind these 501(c)(4) groups.

Their perception is that anyone who does not agree with them, who does not blame others and who wants to make changes that will institute progress is “Drinking Kool Aid.” Meanwhile they follow because they cannot lead; they follow and just how they envision everyone else drinking Kool Aid they are that lemming behind another and behind another seeing not where they are headed but only listening to those who enchant them as they blindly follow who they know not is actually leading.

As much as people on one side of the political fence try to blame “everything” on President George W. Bush, that is not the full story.  Likewise, those who try to blame “everything” on President Barack Obama are merely creating a scapegoat for convenience.  Like or dislike, agree or disagree, the United States is far from being a dictatorial state. Comparisons to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany illustrates an ignorance of genocide and a complete lack of respect for those who really endured such horrors.  Neither is the United States a socialist or communist state whether one uses the actual definitions of those ideologies or the popular conceptions many have.

The United States of America is a highly unique and complex mix of governmental and societal principles.  We always were.  We the People do not have common backgrounds, religions, beliefs, or even language.  Our Founding Fathers would be shocked if they knew that some people today would claim all to be Christian.  Even those who believed in Christianity would question whether the faith was Catholicism or any of the Protestant denominations. Language, sure we won independence from England, but if you think about it George III was the first Hanoverian monarch who spoke English.  Today, I would not harbor a guess as to all of the different “versions” of English being used in the United States.

What We the People are is a blend represented in many different ways.  One way is our Flag.  Consider those stripes, equal in size, which acknowledge each of the original colonies along with the 50 stars representing each of the states which make up the United States of America.  Each is different, yet each is the same.  None or more prominent or important than another.  Remove any, however, and that Flag is not the same.

How can we remove groups of individuals and still be the same country?

I never liked that imagery of a melting pot simply because it creates an image of different articles being added and once removed everything appears the same.  I love our Flag.  The stars and stripes are united together.  Read the ideas and words from the past.  Regardless of gender, race, creed, preference, age, and even time period, a theme of the strength in being united is present.  A brief look at the period under the Articles of Confederation or the Civil War offers a glimpse into the danger of being divided.

People today, regardless of who we are or our own ideological beliefs need to understand that danger. 

For Congress a quick and basic request:  Simplify the Freakin’ Tax Code, bring bills to the respective Floors for debate, stop running for reelection before the coming election has even occurred, cut riders from bills, and represent the people in your districts and the United States of America and not just those who donate to you.  A simple visual is to cut the puppet strings and act like men and women and not be a childlike toy controlled by someone who purchased you.