Last week during the House Committee on Ways and Means hearing on the IRS abuses, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, asked, "Is this still America?"
Brady summarized the experience one of his constituents had with the IRS. Other than voting, she had never had any real involvement with her government. Then she filed for tax-exempt status for her Tea Party group.
She received a visit from domestic anti-terrorism units of the FBI. Her personal and business taxes were audited. Her husband was audited. She received several more visits from the FBI and other government agencies.
This went on for two years. As Congressman Brady said: Is this still America?
One of the great privileges a free society has to offer its citizens is the privilege of anonymity. No agency of government should know more about us than they are willing to tell our children.
In the last two years, the IRS has demanded from conservative groups lists of all their board members, officers, employees and contributors. In California, the federal tax agency demanded, and received, 60 million medical records on 10 million Americans.
The IRS even asked religious groups for copies of the prayers they prayed. Agents of the IRS asked an educational group what books they were reading. They asked a pro-life group to sign a pledge that it would not protest Planned Parenthood.
In view of these developments, two questions arise: What business does our government have asking for this personal information? What has and will the government do with this information?
The answer to the first question is obvious. It has NO business knowing this information. It answered the second question by giving information from tax returns to a liberal political group for use in the last campaign.
The question has become, "Should we reform the tax code." Of course we should, but how do we do that?
All of the discussion about "fixing" the current system in terms of a fairer, flatter income tax is a waste of time and effort. It can't be "fixed."
The tax code we have today is a flat tax on income almost 100 years after its initial enactment. It has been flattened out many times since, most recently in 1986. That most recent reform has since been amended 20,000 times.
To make our income tax system fairer and flatter, and to expect future Congresses to leave it that way, is like the proverbial third marriage, the victory of hope over experience.
The entire idea of taxing income requires a government agency to know how you make your income and how much you make. That is then further complicated by knowing what "kind" of income, how many deductions, what kind of deductions, how many dependents ... we don't have to go any further here do we? The IRS goes further -- more than 70,000 pages further!
The Fair Tax (HR 25/S 122) is the only fundamental tax reform that ensures real change. Over the last 20 years, it has had more than $20 million spent on scholastic research.
The Fair Tax proposal has more than 70 co-sponsors. Under the Fair Tax, the entire income tax code is repealed, the IRS is abolished, and the government is supported by a national sales tax.
No agency of government will know how much you make or how you make it. It will not know how you invest, whether you win or lose, with whom you choose to associate, how many children you have, where you go to church or what your church teaches or doesn't teach, or what you read or pray about. Nor should it!
You will become a voluntary taxpayer paying taxes when you choose, as much as you choose, determined by how you choose to spend.
And you will truly enjoy that great privilege of anonymity that a free society owes its citizens.
John E. Linder represented Georgia's 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2011 as a Republican. He was the original sponsor of legislation for establishing the Fair Tax.