Ringside Seat: Arrested Governance

The Internal Revenue Service was closed today, as employees were furloughed due to sequestration's budget cuts. Conservatives found this to be an occasion for side-splitting humor; Sarah Palin, for example, tweeted, "The IRS is closed today, feel free to use your phones." Get it, because the IRS was tapping … um … well, never mind. In any case, today is a reminder that this scandal could be an opportunity for reform that clarifies the law on political and non-political groups, leads to a greater professionalization of the agency, and makes future misconduct less likely. Or it could wind up being just the opposite.

As Kevin Drum reminded us yesterday, one of the low moments of the Gingrich years in Congress was a series of hearings meant to expose IRS wrongdoing, in which horror stories of the agency's abuse of taxpayers were told to lawmakers eager to hear them. In response, the IRS's authority was curtailed and its budget slashed. The predictable consequence was less enforcement of tax laws (warming Republicans' hearts, no doubt), but also an agency that had to do more with less.

If anyone was forced to do more with less, it was the office in Cincinnati, where a small number of poorly trained employees had to process thousands of new applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status after 2010. That isn't to say there was no wrongdoing, but if you want an agency that does its job well and upholds the highest standards of professionalism, cutting its resources is not the way to get it.

But that could well happen again, and Republicans would be only too happy about it. It would be of a piece with the way they approach so much of what passes for their attempts at governing: Do everything you can to sabotage government and keep it from operating effectively, and then when it falls short, shout "See?!? We told you government can't do anything right!"

So They Say

“I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine."

Toronto mayor Rob Ford


Daily Meme: Arrested Governance

  • We at the Prospect are quite excited that new Arrested Development episodes are premiering on Sunday. So we only thought it proper to send you off on this holiday weekend with a meme that celebrates all the times when the cult TV show and politics were dangerous cousins.
  • Which isn't hard at all given that the past two weeks have basically been one long episode of Scandalmakers.
  • Stan Jones, Montana libertarian, will always be remembered as the politician who "blue" himself.
  • Buster Bluth is now working as the vice-president's aide ... in the HBO series Veep.
  • Chick-fil-a, a fast-food chain known for its political stances more than most, is hosting events that don't seem that much different from Motherboy XXX.
  • Mr. Pop Pop is tangled up in an epic court case in upstate New York, over the fate of an ice-cream truck permit. The fact that he calls himself Mr. Pop Pop tells us he's not ready for one.
  • New Jersey's "Operation Swill" has found many a bar that has tried to pass off water or rubbing alcohol as liquor. Maybe they were hoping it would turn alcoholic if they left it out overnight.
  • You can always tell a Milford man.
  • Barbara Bush doesn't want Jeb to run for president. Family first!
  • Asawin Suebsaeng thinks that the show was the best satire of the Bush years.
  • The IRS was involved in the end of the original frozen banana empire.
  • During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt and Ann Romney were found to be eerily similar to some Arrested Development characters.
  • And no, the S.E.C. still doesn't have boats.

What We're Writing

  • In Tornado Alley, where reporter Monica Potts grew up, waiting out a storm on your front porch is routine business. Yet after the storm in Oklahoma, it feels like "these terrible tornados hit more and more often, and are worse and worse to bear."
  • Colorado and Washington were the first places on earth to legalize marijuana. Now,writes Abby Rapoport, they have to invent rules for safely growing, processing, regulating, selling, and consuming weed—as the world watches.

What We're Reading

  • Garance Franke-Ruta aptly dubs the New York mayor's contest—the one between Anthony Weiner and Christine Quinn—the "TMI primary," a test of how many personal revelations voters can stand. 
  • USA Today gives Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn op-ed space in which to insist that he would never, ever endanger his state's disaster-recovery funding. Because, really, who could possibly think such a thing? 
  • Tim Alberta investigates the way a "mob of conservative kamikazes" took over the Republican House. 
  • If you've been following Peggy Noonan's final descent into madness, in her "Obama is worse than Nixon" phase, you won't want to miss today's installment on the IRS.
  • Ryan Lizza digs deeper into the James Rosen inquiries and finds nothing good.
  • Memorial Day marks the beginning of beach season, but battered Jersey Shore isn't quite there yet.

Poll of the Day

A wide majority of Americans support background checks for guns sold at shows and by private parties, but they don't believe that such a measure would make it through Congress, according to a new poll from Pew Research Center. Although 81 percent favor checks—including 83 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of independents—only 42 percent think significant new gun control laws will be implemented this year. Faith in democracy, anyone?

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