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Quote of the Day: Taxpayer Privacy and IRS Abuse

At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) remains among our most important missions.  Among the abuses that we've chronicled is the case of convicted criminal Charles Littlejohn, who rejoined the IRS in 2017 with the specific purpose of illegally breaching and leaking the private tax returns of Donald Trump and other Americans to radical left-wing organizations like ProPublica.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, one of those victims speaks out on his own experience and the need for greater taxpayer protection against this recurring problem that should terrify all Americans of every political persuasion.  Ira Stoll, whose tax information was passed to ProPublica, even helpfully details how…[more]

May 29, 2024 • 11:28 AM

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Don’t Conflate “Affirmative Action” with Alumni, Geographic or Athletic Preferences Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, May 01 2014
Unlike the issue of race, alumni and athletic preferences have not divided this nation since its inception. They were not the basis of the bloodiest war in our history, or a uniquely ugly and deadly festering wound like the issue of race.

“Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbid what its text plainly requires?  Needless to say (except that this case obliges us to say it), the question answers itself.”  

-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Clearly, no moral or political issue has divided and agonized America throughout its history like the scourge of racial discrimination.  

For that reason, it is bizarre to hear repeated calls for “a national conversation on race,” since no subject in American history has been discussed less than race.  

Nevertheless, our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, expressed the inceptive ideal that “all Men are created equal.”  But needless to say, from our inception we fell far short of that aspiration.  Ending the “peculiar institution” of slavery alone cost 620,000 Americans their lives in the Civil War, which dwarf’s even World War II’s cost of 420,000 American lives despite that war’s more murderous efficiencies, as well as our much larger armies and population.  

In the aftermath of the Civil War’s carnage, the nation finally added legal force to the ideal of equality under law by enacting the Fourteenth Amendment and incorporating equal protection into the Constitution itself.  Despite that legal force, we continued to struggle.  Nearly a century later, Martin Luther King, Jr. could still only envision, rather than enjoy, a day in which Americans “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  

Soon thereafter, the nation enacted the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, two of the most monumental legislative achievements in our history.  Yet we continue to struggle.  In decades since, we have continued to battle the longstanding forms of discrimination against racial minorities, but new complexities arose with the arrival of state-sanctioned discrimination to benefit racial minorities under the guise of remediation.  

Simply put, the American experiment has been a continuing story of making the ideal of liberty for all citizens, regardless of race, a reality.  

This term, the United States Supreme Court advanced that cause another step in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.  The issue presented in that case was whether Michigan voters were constitutionally prohibited from enacting (by a wide 58% to 42% majority) a law reading, “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or nation origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”  

In other words, as Justice Scalia wryly asked above, did Michigan voters somehow violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by enacting a law that mandates strict equal protection under the law?  

Even liberal Justice Stephen Breyer remained unpersuaded by that strange contention, and sided with the majority.  “The Constitution,” Breyer wrote in a separate concurring opinion, “does not ‘authorize judges’ to either forbid or to require the adoption of diversity-seeking race-conscious ‘solutions’ (of the kind at issue here) to such serious problems as ‘how to best administer America’s schools’ to help ‘create a society that includes all Americans.’”  

The majority reached the correct decision for an array of reasons detailed extensively by commentators, from legal to sociological to political.  

One particular claim from defenders of affirmative action, however, which Justice Sonia Sotomayor now euphemistically labels “race-sensitive admissions policies,” tends to remain unanswered in the ongoing debate.  

Specifically, the claim that race-based affirmative action schemes can be equated with university admissions policies favoring alumni legacies or talented athletes.  In her 58-page dissent more notable for its angst and overheated political rhetoric than its legal or logical depth, Justice Sotomayor wrote:

“There are now two very different processes through which a Michigan citizen is permitted to influence the admissions policies of the State’s universities:  one for persons interested in race-sensitive admissions policies and one for everyone else.  A citizen who is a University of Michigan alumnus, for instance, can advocate for an admissions policy that considers an applicant’s legacy status by meeting individually with members of the Board of Regents to convince them of her views, by joining with other legacy parents to lobby the Board, or by voting for and supporting Board candidates who share her position.  The same options are available to a citizen who wants the Board to adopt admissions policies that consider athleticism, geography, area of study, and so on.  The one and only policy a Michigan citizen may not seek through this long-established process is a race-sensitive admissions policy that considers race in an individualized manner when it is clear that race-neutral alternatives are not adequate to achieve diversity.  For that policy alone, the citizens of Michigan must undertake the daunting task of amending the Constitution.”  

Sotomayor’s claim contains a surfeit of illogic.  For instance, amending the Michigan Constitution obviously wasn’t an unbearably “daunting task” for the 58% majority that did so in this case.  Additionally, race isn’t the only basis on which voters prohibited discrimination – sex, color, ethnicity and national origin were also included.

But Sotomayor’s argument regarding alumni and athletic preferences, which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other affirmative action proponents often advances, is particularly deceptive.  Unlike the issue of race, alumni and athletic preferences have not divided this nation since its inception.  They were not the basis of the bloodiest war in our history, or a uniquely ugly and deadly festering wound like the issue of race.  

Race-based preferences are inherently unjust, as they judge solely on the color of one’s skin rather than the content of one’s character.  They exacerbate and perpetuate animosity and stereotypes; they foster the belief that one’s hard work is less important than one’s race; they illogically exclude Asians, a minority group that has suffered discrimination throughout American history; they often favor people whose ancestors weren’t in America in the era of slavery or even Jim Crow, and they tend to favor higher-income minorities who haven’t suffered in the ways that justify affirmative action in the first place. 

America has paid a heavy price to combat discrimination on the basis of race, and that malignant practice has scarred us in a way that things like alumni preferences, athletic scholarships and geographic outreach obviously have not.   Those more trivial preferences may or may not be unappealing or unjustified.  But to equate them in a Supreme Court opinion insults the institution and corrodes our tragically ongoing discourse on this important issue.  

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