The Agenda

Sticking Up for the IRS

After a horrible terrorist attack, the daughter of the terrorist defended her father’s actions in a moment of grief and panic. Later, after reflecting on her remarks, she retracted her statement. TPMMuckraker reported this story earlier today. I’m sorry to see that they haven’t adjusted their headline to reflect the update. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if someone I care about very deeply committed a heinous crime, and I can’t imagine what I’d say under the circumstances. 

Though I’ll be the first to condemn any terrorist attack, an attack on the IRS hits close to home. This might sound a bit sappy, but here goes: My father is an accountant and he taught me to have a tremendous respect for the IRS. As you might know, lots of people try to pressure their accountants into cutting corners on their taxes, and my father can’t stand it. He doesn’t think that the IRS is perfect, but he’s a firm believer in the notion that paying taxes is a central obligation for those of us lucky enough to live under one of the world’s freer, more secure countries. I definitely think that taxes should be low. But I also think that the IRS should get the resources it needs to do its job well. I also think that we need to scale back the insane administrative complexity that is imposed on the IRS as well as on taxpayers. Blaming IRS employees for decisions made by Congress is crazy. People tend to hate taxes and love spending. Well, if you love your Joint Strike Fighter or your Interstate Highway System or your Social Security, you should learn to at least begrudgingly appreciate the women and men who do a thankless and often very difficult job at an underresourced agency that is the subject of near-constant political attacks. And I say this as the kind of person who thinks that plenty of other federal agencies need to either shrink or go out of business. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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