Posing the Wrong Question

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) acknowledged that staff members at the IRS made mistakes in targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, calling their actions "inept" and "stupid," but he argued that it was not a part of an administration-wide conspiracy.

However, his question to the six ordinary citizens appearing at the hearing suggests a very different situation. "Just ask yourself which is more likely," McDermott stated. "That mid-level employees overwhelmed by four-times as many applications as before made stupid, irresponsible shortcuts, or that there is an administration-wide plot to take down community organizers?

Posed as a hypothetical question, the answer is obvious: It is far more likely that the mid-level employees would seek shortcuts. But it is not a hypothetical question; it is the wrong question. Given actual events, the correct question is, Which is more likely, that mid-level employees overwhelmed by four times as many applications as before intentionally proceeded in a way that further increased their workload while simultaneously exposing them to reprimand, dismissal, and jail, or that there is an administration-wide plot to take down community organizers?

The answer to this question also is obvious. 

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) acknowledged that staff members at the IRS made mistakes in targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, calling their actions "inept" and "stupid," but he argued that it was not a part of an administration-wide conspiracy.

However, his question to the six ordinary citizens appearing at the hearing suggests a very different situation. "Just ask yourself which is more likely," McDermott stated. "That mid-level employees overwhelmed by four-times as many applications as before made stupid, irresponsible shortcuts, or that there is an administration-wide plot to take down community organizers?

Posed as a hypothetical question, the answer is obvious: It is far more likely that the mid-level employees would seek shortcuts. But it is not a hypothetical question; it is the wrong question. Given actual events, the correct question is, Which is more likely, that mid-level employees overwhelmed by four times as many applications as before intentionally proceeded in a way that further increased their workload while simultaneously exposing them to reprimand, dismissal, and jail, or that there is an administration-wide plot to take down community organizers?

The answer to this question also is obvious. 

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