[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your scandalously genial host John Derbyshire with a potpourri of items from the week's news.
It's been a week of scandal in the U.S. of A. The Benghazi fiasco and lie-o-rama smells even worse than it did when we passed comment on it last week. Attorney General Eric Holder, having failed to prod us out of our cowardice about race so we can engage in that frank and honest conversation he so much wants, has been consoling himself by listening to reporter's private phone calls.
One government scandal a week is the Radio Derb rule, though. The big one this week was the politicization of the IRS.
02 — The politicization of the IRS. Yes, a new administration scandal came up this week in the area of federal taxation. First let me give a little background here.
Business organizations exist to make profits, those profits going to enrich the proprietors, or to be distributed as dividends to shareholders. Other kinds of legally recognized organizations have different purposes: churches, charities, professional associations, labor unions, sports clubs, and so on. These are referred to as "nonprofits."
For federal tax purposes, these nonprofits are covered by Section 501, subsection (c) of the tax code. Because of that, they're sometimes called 501(c) organizations. These 501(c) organizations, these nonprofits, are exempt from a lot of the taxes that profit-seeking businesses have to pay.
There are many sub-categories of 501(c)'s. For example, I work for VDARE.com, a 501(c) sub-category 3 outfit. That's a nonprofit set up for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes. The nice thing about 501(c)3's is that if you send a donation to one, you can claim that as a deduction when you file your taxes. To offset that advantage, a 501(c)3 is very limited in what it can do by way of political activity. It can't endorse a political candidate, for example, and can only do very limited kinds of lobbying.
I'll just pause here while you get out your checkbook and write a donation to VDARE.com so you can claim that tax break. You do want a tax break, don't you? Of course you do …
[Clip: The Beatles, "Tax Man"]
OK, here's another sub-category of nonprofit: 501(c)4. A 501(c)4 can be more political than a 501(c)3. It can, for example, endorse political candidates, and do heavy lobbying. In exchange for this extra political freedom, donors to a 501(c)4 don't get the tax break, so it's not as attractive to donors as a 501(c)3. An example of a 501(c)4 would be a Tea Party group.
However, a 501(c)4 is not allowed to be primarily political. Its primary focus under tax law is supposed to be, quote, "social welfare." If your organization has 501(c)4 status you are not, for example, of any interest to the Federal Election Commission, which oversees campaign financing.
You can see that there are some fuzzy boundaries. What's the definition of "primary" there? Where does politics start and "social welfare" stop? Bring on the lawyers!
Those fuzzy boundaries concerning what a 501(c)4 may or may not do got an airing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court three years ago in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Citizens United is a conservative 501(c)4. The overall outcome of that Supreme Court ruling was more wiggle room for what a 501(c)4 can do in the way of politicking.
OK, so you start up a group of like-minded citizens, and you all decide you want to do some serious lobbying and promoting of political candidates. You declare yourself to the IRS and ask for 501(c)4 status.
What's going to happen is, the IRS will do some investigating, see which side of those fuzzy boundaries your activities fall on.
That's their job. It's right and proper that they do that. But guess what? They do a whole lot more such investigating if your organization's name or mission statement includes words and phrases like "patriot" or "tea party" and much less if it has words like "progressive" or "social justice."
Put it another way, the IRS is politicized against patriotic and conservative outfits. That's what we've been finding out this past few days. How did we find out? Next segment.
03 — TIGTA spills the beans. Let's get the chain of command clear in our minds here.
The IRS, in charge of your taxes, is a bureau in the U.S. Treasury Department. So at the top of the chain of command we have Treasury, since a few weeks ago headed up by Jack Lew.
Second level down, below Treasury, we have two bureaus of interest. One is of course the IRS, headed by a Commissioner. Until last November the Commissioner was Doug Shulman, appointed during the George W. Bush administration. The other bureau of interest in Treasury is TIGTA, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The IRS collects taxes; TIGTA keeps an eye on them to make sure they do it fairly.
Just one more level down: Inside the IRS there is a division overseeing nonprofits, those 501(c)'s. Head of this division is a lady named Lois Lerner, appointed thereto by, again, the George W. Bush administration, in 2006.
Tea Party groups have been complaining to their congressman since the 2010 mid-term elections that the IRS was giving them a hard time getting 501(c)4 status. The answer they got at first was that Citizens United, the aforementioned Supreme Court case decided earlier that year, had so confused the whole issue of 501(c)4's that the IRS hadn't yet got its act back together.
That excuse had worn threadbare by the time the 2012 election cycle started heating up, and the Tea Party complaints started getting serious congressional attention. In Spring of 2012 a congressional committee actually asked Doug Shulman, the IRS Commissioner, if the Tea Party allegations were true. Not at all, said Shulman, everyone's treated fairly.
The congresscritters went up the chain of command to Treasury, and Treasury asked TIGTA to look into it. This week we finally got to see the TIGTA report. It's actually dated May 14th, though Congress seems to have got a look at it a couple of weeks ago.
Sure enough, says TIGTA, quote: "The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions," end quote. Some of these groups were smothered in demands for paperwork. Some were kept waiting for approval as long as three years.
We actually knew that even before we got to see the TIGTA report. Lois Lerner — remember, she's at the bottom of the chain of command here, in charge of the IRS division that oversees nonprofits — Ms. Lerner took what looks like a staged question at an obscure conference in Washington on Friday May 10th and responded to the question by apologizing for having targeted conservative groups applying for nonprofit status.
It's an old political trick: Let out the bad news in some out-of-the-way venue on a Friday, hoping it'll die over the weekend break. This time it didn't work. That's the fuss you've been hearing all week.
04 — If only it were the politicians. So what do we learn from this, Comrades?
Not much that we didn't know already. The IRS is an awfully tempting political tool, a way for politically powerful people to intimidate their enemies. Presidents have been using it in this way just about for ever. Franklin Rooosevelt sicced the IRS on Huey Long back in 1934, almost eighty years ago. Nor was Huey Long the only one: Elliott Roosevelt, FDR's son, in his book A Rendezvous with Destiny, told us that, quote, "Other men's tax returns continued to fascinate Father in the thirties," end quote. Politicization of the IRS was one of the impeachment charges against Richard Nixon.
Do we deduce, then, that President Obama has been chuckling over copies of his enemies' tax returns? Obama says he didn't know anything about this scandal. I hope I won't break listeners' hearts by saying: I believe him.
As I pointed out last week in commenting on the Benghazi fiasco, this is a very inattentive President. He's a campaigner, not an administrator. Prior to being elected President, he had administered nothing at all. He's not interested in doing it, and doesn't know how to do it. He's out on the road giving speeches, raising funds for his next election; or he's playing golf, or off on some vacation; or he's got his feet up on the Oval Office desk — a gift from Queen Victoria to Rutherford B. Hayes, let it be remembered, and deserving of a bit more respect than Obama gives it. Other people's tax returns would bore Obama.
I doubt Doug Shulman or Lois Lerner knew anything about this, either. The problem here is not with the politicos, who come and go; it's much more likely a problem of the permanent bureaucracy — the middle- and low-level worker-bees who staff the IRS and other government agencies.
These are, by definition, government people. They believe in government and they loathe and despise organizations like the Tea Party, who think we have too much government and too many government people. With a mindset like that, do you think the government people can resist making life as hard as possible for Tea Partiers and other conservative groups?
I actually wish I could believe it was the President and his appointees who were driving this. Them we can get rid of at election time. The nameless GS-12 tucked away in the IRS Nonprofit Determinations Office in Cincinnati, the guy the Tea Party group is dealing with, we can't get rid of him.
It's a systemic problem, and, as Paul Mirengoff points out on PowerLine, it will get worse as Obamacare kicks in, and worse yet if the Rubio-Schumer Amnesty Bill gets passed. Both those measures involve huge expansions of the federal bureaucracy: more federal worker-bees with more opportunities to promote the left-liberalism they all believe in and put obstacles in the way of those who think differently.
Our country belongs to the government people. We just live here.
05 — Depressive realism. I know that Radio Derb listeners commit to memory every word they hear on this station, so I know you will remember our post-election broadcast last November 10th, when I mentioned English newspaper columnist Ed West.
I mentioned Ed back then because of his perspicacious remarks about the Hispanic vote, under the headline, quote: Pundits tell the Republican party: "The only way you can win is by importing more Democrat voters", end quote.
Ed is a pretty good egg in Radio Derb's estimation. A few weeks ago he published a book titled The Diversity Illusion: What We Got Wrong About Immigration & How to Set It Right. The book is mainly about the British experience with mass Third World immigration, but it's well worth a look for its critique of the Diversity dogma and the terrible social consequences that follow from it.
Well, Ed West has now left his job as a columnist at the London Daily Telegraph to take up a position as Deputy Editor at The Catholic Herald, which is I believe a religious newspaper. Ed wrote a farewell column for the Telegraph, and I commend it to your attention. The title of the column is: Conservatives — depressing everyone since 500 b.c.
Now you can see why I like it. I'm the guy, remember, who wrote a book titled We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. Ed West is on the same page; and though he does not credit me in his column, I flatter myself I can detect some Derbian influence therein.
Conservatism may sound miserable, even misanthropic, but it only recognises that within the communities we live in, which are from an evolutionary point of view unnaturally large, there need to be firm rules to minimalise free-riding, violent conflict and economic disaster. The idea of evolutionary conservatism is to build a society that is as just, progressive, wealthy and happy as is possible within the boundaries of human nature.
End quote. Tell it, Preacher! I salute Ed West as a fellow infantryman in the war against happy-clappy optimism about human nature and human society. I wish him well at his new job. I urge you at least to read his column; and if you have a few dollars to spare, buy his book. The Kindle edition is $8.19.
06 — Richwine roundup. The Jason Richwine affair continues to generate interesting commentary. Richwine, you'll recall, is the Heritage Foundation analyst who contributed to the Heritage report that costed the amnesty provisions of the proposed immigration bill. It costed them at 6.3 trillion dollars over 50 years. Then the amnesty zealots dug up Richwine's 2009 Ph.D. dissertation from Harvard University and found it full of thoughtcrime: Hispanic Americans having lower mean IQ than non-Hispanic whites, and so on. Richwine "resigned" from Heritage.
That word "resigned" is in quotes, the quotes signifying a conversation somewhat along the following lines.
Heritage: "Sorry, Jason, you'll have to resign."
I've had plenty to say about the Richwine affair at my outlets on VDARE.com and Taki's Magazine. I won't repeat any of that here, you can look it up for yourselves if you feel inclined. I'll just cover one point, the point about the science in Richwine's dissertation — all that stuff about race and IQ that had liberal commentators shrieking and swooning with horror.
Here's the news: It's mainstream in the relevant fields, long since accepted by quantitative researchers in the human sciences. That's why it didn't seem remarkable to the Harvard Profs. who approved the dissertation. Where they live, the facts about IQ and race differences are not shocking. Everyone's internalized them.
These academics know, of course, that these topics are radioactive out in the public forum, so they keep quiet about them outside the Academy — except when, like James Watson, they momentarily forget to.
Tell you a story.
I am addicted to dinner clubs — those gatherings where a dozen or twenty like-minded people get together once a month to have a nice meal and discuss things of common interest, usually after hearing an invited speaker. I currently belong to three such clubs.
Club A is a casual and fun affair, a mix of lawyers, teachers, journalists, and a couple of academics. Club B is classier, several Wall Street or hedge fund types, historians, military analysts, ex-diplomats, senior medical men, a couple of bohemians for flavor. Club C is wall-to-wall academics from one of the local universities, social sciences and human sciences mostly.
Well, after I got dropped by National Review last year, my first dinner date was Club A. They gave me a standing ovation as I walked in. The following week Club B had a meeting. It's a more genteel crowd, so naturally they were more restrained, but everyone was friendly and supportive.
I was a bit worried about Club C, though. I mean, academics? How would they take to having a board-certified — well, at any rate, pundit-certified — racist among them?
I needn't have worried. When Club C came around, I was welcomed as if nothing had happened. A couple of members privately expressed support. One — from the law school, quite a distinguished academic — hadn't read the offending column, and asked for a link. I emailed it to him. He emailed back much amused, with a witty remark.
Academics — I mean serious, quantitative academics, not the halfwits over at the departments of Raza Studies or Modern Languages — academics respect data, respect knowledge extracted from decades of careful analysis, and know the score. For the sake of a quiet life, they keep it among themselves, that's all.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Just a personal note here, I hope listeners won't mind.
My dad was an undemonstrative sort, who didn't do much active dadding. When I was growing up in the 1950s, the main thing parents said to their kids was: "Go outside and play. Make sure you're home in time for dinner."
I was highly surprised, therefore, when one afternoon my dad came to the school where I was in fifth grade, and took me out. The reason was, there was a new movie he wanted to see, and he wanted me to see it too. It was the only time in my entire childhood this ever happened.
The movie was titled The Dam Busters. It told the story of the RAF bombing mission against the Ruhr dams in Germany. The mission was a qualified success, destroying two of the three dams. Nineteen aircraft took part; only eleven made it back home. Fifty-three crewmen were lost.
The movie was a huge success in Britain; I don't know if it made much impression elsewhere. The charm of it was the conjunction of disciplined military courage with the inventive ingenuity of a brilliant technician — the guy who designed the special kind of bomb needed for the operation. The theme music was played endlessly on the radio, which was all that most of us had for home entertainment at that point.
The raid itself took place on May 16th, 1943 — 70 years ago this Thursday. It wasn't the most important action of the war, not by a long way, but it was a boost to British morale when war-weariness was beginning to set in. Let's remember those who fought and died, while some trace of the nation they fought and died for still exists.
Item: Has the U.S.A. reached Peak Jobs?
It's been an article of faith with economists that every great advance in techniques of production destroys a lot of jobs, but creates even more. In 1890, when my grandfathers were in their teens, more than half the U.S. labor force was engaged in farming: today it's less than two percent. A lot of jobs were destroyed there, but new kinds of jobs came up to replace them.
Will this happy kind of turnover continue in the future? Possibly. Walter Russell Mead made the case that it will on his blog last week. Quote:
In the 19th century most Americans spent their time working with animals and plants outdoors in the country. In the 20th century most Americans spent their time pushing paper in offices or bashing widgets in factories. In the 21st century most of us are going to work with people, providing services that enhance each others' lives.
End quote. Sounds nice. On the other hand there are people like Randall Parker and Tyler Cowen talking about "zero marginal product workers," which basically means persons with no skills of any use to a highly automated post-industrial economy. These guys say that we may now be destroying jobs faster than we can create them, leaving less adaptable and less intelligent citizens high and dry, unemployable.
I'm naturally with the pessimists on this. As I wrote in that world-shattering best-seller We Are Doomed, quote: "What is the next term in the series: farm, factory, office, …? There isn't one." End quote.
I feel sure, at any rate, that we don't need twenty or thirty million low-skilled workers added to the citizenship rolls at this point.
Item: Outrage of the week: Tawana Brawley was in New Jersey last week raising money for her defense fund. You'll recall that Ms. Brawley perpetrated one of the most famous race hoaxes of recent years when she dirtied herself up and called rape on Steven Pagones, a County Prosecutor in New York state.
That was back in 1987. Pagones sued for defamation and won his case. Brawley was hit with $190,000 in damages. She disappeared. Then last year the New York Post discovered her living in Virginia under a false name. By that time the bill for damages had ballooned to $430,000, and Pagones moved to recover what was owed to him.
Hence the Brawley fundraiser. It seemed to go pretty well. Envelopes were supplied by the organizers and attendees were dropping $50 bills into them. One supporter, the Rev. C. Herbert Oliver, gave what we are told was, quote, "a very substantial donation."
Meanwhile the Rev. Al Sharpton, who used the Brawley hoax for purposes of self-promotion, is a highly-paid commentator on MSNBC, having his ring kissed by celebrities and politicians.
I don't know about Ms. Brawley, but I assume those two Reverends are familiar with the Book of Psalms: "I saw the prosperity of the wicked … their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men … Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression."
Item: Finally, some words of wisdom from the United Nations — to be precise, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. They are worried about world hunger, and they've come up with a solution: Eat insects!
Quote from the U.N. report: "Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint." End quote.
The report does allow that "consumer disgust" is a barrier to acceptance of insect-eating in Western countries. It's nothing a good concentrated propaganda campaign can't overcome, though. If you can get people to accept homosexual marriage, you can get them to accept anything.
So if you want to get ahead of the curve, start practicing! Chow down on a nice plump caterpillar, a crunchy cockroach, or a plate of fried beetles. It all helps preserve the environment. What could be more important than that?
08 — Signoff. There you have it, ladies and gents. I hope I didn't spoil your lunch there. Actually, for those of us who grew up listening to Burl Ives, eating insects is no big deal.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Burl Ives, "I know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly"]