The Stasi IRS?
It's often been said the Internal Revenue Service is the most feared bureaucracy in the United States.
As the agency openly proclaims on their own website, concerning what actions they might take if your taxes are unpaid:
We could seize and sell property that you hold (such as your car, boat, or house), or we could levy property that is yours but is held by someone else (such as your wages, retirement accounts, dividends, bank accounts, licenses, rental income, accounts receivables, the cash loan value of your life insurance, or commissions).
You could even wind up in jail like Al Capone, who found that not paying taxes brought down more wrath and judgment from the government than murder.
But recent events have given Americans even more reason for fear.
Deep in the subterranean bowels of the IRS, there are electronic folders full of deeply personal, private information about nearly every American and every tax exempt organization. We now know this treasure trove of information is exponentially expanding and has been put to the use for the aims of a corrupt administration interested in crippling political opposition such as the Tea Party movement.
The harassment of the Richmond Tea Party group, which applied for tax exempt status, exemplifies the badgering many conservative groups have received over the last few years. A long letter from the IRS to the organization includes an almost impossible list of requirements demanded by lackeys who obviously invented as many obstacles as possible to prevent conservative organizations from achieving tax exempt status.
In the letter, the IRS admitted the group had already provided "thorough responses" in its 2009 application, but stated that "unfortunately, we need the following for the period of 2010 to now..." Among the plethora of demands for information from October 2010 on:
● Detailed information about board members, officers, employees and volunteers, including work hours and compensation.
● Information on all events and programs on all events and programs, including time, location; detailed description plus hard copies of all handouts; detailed lists of the names and credentials of all organizers, the contents of all speeches, the names of all speakers and info on their credentials.
● Provision of information on all publishing activities, including books, CD's, DVD's, newsletters, flyers, brochures, pamphlets, voter guides -- plus copies of all publications and advertising materials.
● Information on any and all attempts to influence the outcome of specific legislation, including information on all attempts to do so.
● Information of all other IRC 501© (3) or 527 organizations with whom the Tea Party is associated, including details about the "nature of the relationship," along with the names and employer ID numbers of the leaders of such organizations.
Other demands included the provision of details about future activities being planned. The IRS also wanted all the names of "donors, contributors and grantors." If the donors, contributors and grantors planned to run for office, the Tea Party was to provide such information, including the title of the office for which the aforementioned people might be running.
In short, the Richmond Tea Party was basically asked to act as a spy on itself and other similarly minded organizations on behalf of the IRS. It was asked to give every possible detail not only about its private inner mechanisms and modes of operation, but those of any organization with which it is even remotely connected. It goes without saying that such detailed information could be conveniently put to use by political enemies.
Obtaining access to files would be all that was needed to know everything about a prospective candidate for office who just happened to be conservative.
Where have we seen this sort of intensive scrutiny and record keeping before? Where have we seen the use of detailed records used to repress opposition to government?
We saw it in Eastern Germany before the fall of the infamous Wall in 1989 in the form of the Stasi, the arm of the secret police, which kept voluminous information on every individual and every organization within that hapless and oppressed nation. The Stasi's motto was "To know everything." At its height of power, it employed 100,000 and had 200,000 informants. (According to its website, the IRS has about 115,000 employees.)
The result of the continual spying in the GDR was a collection of information so huge that it defied belief. Der Spiegel, Germany's top newspaper, reported in 2009, "The files occupy over 100 kilometers of shelf space, though this doesn't even include the 16,000 sacks of shredded documents the Birthler Authority is currently trying to reassemble with the aid of computers."
Included in the files, later opened to scrutiny of the citizens the Stasi harassed, arrested, tortured and whose relatives were killed, are horrifying examples of how little it took to destroy lives. "Mundane everyday events were picked up by the Stasi and used to change the course of people's lives. Some 'suspicious activities' were nothing more than simple misunderstandings: One file tells of a man subjected to close surveillance at the Leipzig convention hall because the agent monitoring him didn't understand what he meant by checking his 'mail box.' The official was unaware of the English term and reported it as 'Mehl box' -- a box of flour." The poor stooge was arrested.
Herbert Ziehm, who formerly lived in East Germany and who was appointed to be in charge of managing the Stasi files, relates the files are testament to a darker side of humanity. Ziehm says that films like The Lives of Others, an award-winning film revelatory of the human consequences of Stasi activities, does not even come close to plumbing the depths to which human beings can sink when they are encouraged to spy on one another. Ziehm said, "More often than not, the Stasi did not need to apply pressure at all. In fact, many often felt snubbed if their information was deemed to be of no interest. People informed for personal gain, out of loyalty to the East German regime, or simply because they wanted to feel like they had some power."
Where else has the Stasi mentality been found?
In his massive study of the oppression of the Soviet communist regime, The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn documented the results of a vast bureaucracy dedicated to spying on fellow Russians. He wrote: "Any action directed toward the weakening of state power was considered to be counterrevolutionary."
He cited the results of the communists' criminal code which forbade "propaganda or agitation containing an appeal for the overthrow, subverting, or weakening of Soviet power... and, equally, the dissemination or possession of literary materials of similar content [...] The famous extensions of this section were as follows: The scope of 'agitation containing an appeal' was enlarged to include a face-to-face conversation between friends or even between husband and wife, or a private letter. The word 'appeal' could mean personal advice. And we say 'could mean' because, in fact it did [...] The term 'preparation of literary materials' covered every letter, note, or private diary, even when only the original document existed. [...] I myself experienced the subtle application of this section. Two of us had secretly exchanged thoughts -- in other words, we were the beginnings of an organization, in other words, an organization."
The result of the exchange of letters between Solzhenitsyn and his friend was that Alexander was sent to the gulag. A group of photos of him during and after imprisonment can be found here. His ravaged face tells it all.
Solzhenitsyn's story as well as the stories of millions of East Germans and Russians who were entrapped by the machinations of a faceless, remorseless, and oppressive bureaucracy dedicated to spying on and persecuting fellow citizens is a solemn warning to us.
The letter that went out to the Richmond Tea Party reveals the IRS has been committed to tracking detailed information on U.S. citizens who are conservatives; information it could later choose to use or to give to others for persecutory purposes. One shudders to think such a corrupt entity is supposed to be in charge of enforcing Obamacare.
What might prevent a Stasi mentality from completely taking over the IRS? What are some possible solutions which might prevent further excesses by the IRS?
For starters, Congress must demand abuses by the IRS stop, seeing to it a neutral watchdog group is standing by ready to bark before abuse happens.
Second, the IRS must not be allowed to expand its authority any further by making it the enforcer of Obamacare. In fact, having the IRS as enforcer is a very good reason to repeal Obamacare altogether.
Third, Congress needs to mount a serious effort to reform our behemoth and onerously elaborate tax code, as it offers too many opportunities for the IRS to go after citizens who have no way to keep track of every minute rule and regulation.
Fourth, enraged Americans must keep the pressure on, protesting the abuses of the IRS in every way the law allows: Petitions, letters, law suits, civil protests and more.
Fifth, a multi-million man march on Washington comprised of angry conservatives and liberals alike just might make an impression.
Wouldn't that be an interesting display of bipartisanship?
Last, all Americans should remember that when private information held by the government exceeds public information given out by the government, the tendency toward tyranny always increases. We need to know at all times just what our government is doing.
Fay Voshell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org