The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, July 24, 2006

If you can't rig the rules, rig the playing field

Two stories emerged yesterday about ways in which the White House is getting just what it wants, in spite of being unable to kill the estate tax and being forced to act on renewing the Voting Rights Act. In short, since Republicans haven't been able to pass legislation their supporters favor, they're trying to sabotage the system instead.

David Cay Johnston writes about goings-on at the IRS. It's no secret that poor Americans are more likely to be audited than rich Americans, with the agency going after peanuts from lower-class people who often just made mistakes on their returns rather than targeting rich tax cheats. The Bushies are just making it official policy:

The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others.

The administration plans to cut the jobs of 157 of the agency’s 345 estate tax lawyers, plus 17 support personnel, in less than 70 days. Kevin Brown, an I.R.S. deputy commissioner, confirmed the cuts after The New York Times was given internal documents by people inside the I.R.S. who oppose them. (. . .)

But six I.R.S. estate tax lawyers whose jobs are likely to be eliminated said in interviews that the cuts were just the latest moves behind the scenes at the I.R.S. to shield people with political connections and complex tax-avoidance devices from thorough audits.

Over at the Boston Globe, Charlie Savage (who did the earliest real reporting on Bush's signing statements) finds that the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is facing a new influx of employees: right-wingers and fundamentalists who oppose civil rights and anti-discrimination laws.

The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

In an acknowledgment of the department's special need to be politically neutral, hiring for career jobs in the Civil Rights Division under all recent administrations, Democratic and Republican, had been handled by civil servants -- not political appointees. (. . .)

Hires with traditional civil rights backgrounds -- either civil rights litigators or members of civil rights groups -- have plunged. Only 19 of the 45 lawyers hired since 2003 in those three sections were experienced in civil rights law, and of those, nine gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies.

Meanwhile, conservative credentials have risen sharply. Since 2003 the three sections have hired 11 lawyers who said they were members of the conservative Federalist Society. Seven hires in the three sections are listed as members of the Republican National Lawyers Association, including two who volunteered for Bush-Cheney campaigns.

Both articles are highly recommended.