Archive for June, 2013

The Power Of Suggestion

June 30, 2013

After the last Bull Raker post, a loyal reader wondered:

Can we assume that in your next blog that you will address the injustice the IRS did to Marina Peterson by auditing three years of her tax returns following the 2009 July 4th parade?

No. Given the overwhelming number of problems in the world, I’m not sure how “we” can confidently assume which topic will follow the preceding one. And, in practice, the Bull Raker Blog doesn’t take requests (well, actually, I don’t recall ever getting a request before), but since I was asked so nicely I will oblige. Fortunately, if I happen to make an “ass out of you and me”, then I can’t be entirely to blame this time.

The question above is a great example of the power of suggestion. In fact, it contains multiple suggestions, only one of which — the desire for an article on the IRS targeting of certain tax-exempt groups — may be obvious to the casual reader. A couple of underlying suggestions must also be addressed (and debunked) in order to fully grasp and effectively tackle the issue.

Underlying suggestion #1: The IRS only looked at right-wing or tea party organizations.

This was not the case, as newly surfaced documents show. The terms “progressive,” “Israel” and “Occupy” all appeared on so-called “be-on-the-lookout” lists used by IRS employees reviewing applications for tax-exempt status.

Underlying suggestion #2: The IRS had no reason to suspect any of these organizations of wrongdoing.

The IRS scandal made headlines for days. Far less attention, however, was given to the roots of the crisis. After the 2010 Citizens United decision, when the court ruled social welfare organizations could raise unlimited corporate money without disclosing donor information, there was a spike in tax-exempt status applications under tax code Section 501(c)(4). Several of these groups, like MoveOn and Crossroads GPS, have claimed to be social welfare organizations while spending 50% or more of their funding on political operations — which is against the law.

Were Marina and the East Bay Patriots unfairly targeted? Maybe, and they probably weren’t the only ones. The IRS was clearly wrong to focus on some groups based on perceived political affiliations. But an improper attempt to address the vast amounts of dark money being spent, tax-free, to illegally influence elections should not prevent a proper investigation into such criminal activity, especially since it could have an enormous impact on the future of our democracy.

You asked for it

Ever wonder why it’s so difficult to untangle ourselves from the various messes we’re in? Could it be, at least in part, that we constantly seek answers to questions that are simply not good enough (NGE)? I think so, which is why my next post, regardless of any reader requests to the contrary, will be about a type of NGE thinking that pervades society. I’ve dubbed it the paper bag philosophy, as in can’t-think-my-way-out-of-a-paper-bag philosophy. It’s not as harsh as it sounds, but it applies to just about everyone. Fortunately, I can offer a practical way out of the paper bags we’re trapped in… And I’m a firm believer in the power of suggestion.