In real life it's near impossible to find anyone who pities the IRS. That's what the New York Times is for. In a Business Day section front-pager for Thursday's paper, the Times's Michael Shear lamented that the CEO of Apple received relatively kind treatment from a Senate panel this week while IRS officials have been grilled.
"One thing became clear this week on Capitol Hill: It is better to be a tax dodger than a tax collector," whined Shear in the opening paragraph of "Torches and Pitchforks for I.R.S. but Cheers for Apple." "Plenty of good will for iPhones but only disdain for the tax collector," lamented a pull quote on the jump page which appeared underneath a picture of Apple's chief Tim Cook. Apparently Shear, and his editors at the Times, are perplexed that congressmen hold a government agency that abused its power to target Americans for their political beliefs in lower regard than a company which employs thousands of Americans and produces products loved the world over, by people of every political stripe, including those lovable hippies of the Occupy Movement.
Shear is perplexed that Apple's CEO Tim Cook wasn't getting the grilling he believes he deserved for doing what every American could if they had the resources: use creative accounting and business planning to pay the least amount of income taxes possible (emphasis mine):
Armed with a blistering report that said Apple had avoided paying billions of dollars in taxes, senators this week had choice words for the company's chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, when he appeared before the Senate's Permanent Committee on Investigations on Tuesday.
They called him a "pretty smart guy" and praised the "incredible legacy" his company had left. They gushed over his products, calling Apple "a great company" that had managed to "change the world."
It was considerably different for the officials of the Internal Revenue Service, whose presence was also "requested" by lawmakers to face accusations that the agency had improperly targeted conservative Tea Party groups for special scrutiny.
Representative John Mica, Republican of Florida, accused Ms. Lerner's former boss, Douglas Shulman, of having "closed down or gagged" I.R.S. employees from telling the truth.
In short, Wednesday's I.R.S. hearing felt like an inquisition - unforgiving, angry, prosecutorial.
Mr. Cook, by contrast, took his hot seat in front of senators who seemed halfhearted in their desire to beat up on the rich guy who makes their iPhones, and whose products are far more popular than they are.
"With him, they were just not going to go up against an American success story," said Neil Eggleston, a veteran Washington lawyer who has prepared many government officials to face a grilling at the hands of lawmakers.
But Mr. Eggleston said Ms. Lerner and the other I.R.S. officials never had a chance at changing the narrative of their hearing. Before such sessions, Mr. Eggleston said, he is honest with his clients: "You are going to get beat up. You are going to get yelled at. There's no way to turn the tide in your favor."
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Obviously no taxpaying American is wild about the IRS. No one likes paying taxes. But the IRS scandal is not about taxes per se but about the egregious, partisan abuse of power which IRS agents engaged in to dog folks just because of their political ideology. The IRS's job is to collect taxes, not hound and harass law-abiding Americans, which is why Congress is rightly testy about the IRS scandal.
Tim Cook's job, on the other hand, is to manage his company in a way that benefits shareholders, consumers and employees, all of whom are harmed if the company needlessly shelled out more in taxes than it had to. It's so easy, a journalist can understand it. Surely Shear does understand it, it's just his political bias is overriding his business sense.