Steven Miller: Too Incompetent Even for the IRS

Josh Barro is the lead writer for the Ticker, Bloomberg View's blog on economics, finance and politics. His primary areas of interest include tax and fiscal policy, state and local government, and planning and land use.
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Last week, when President Barack Obama fired Steven Miller, the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner, some people wondered whether he was a fall guy. He had only been running the IRS since November, meaning he wasn't in charge when the agency was harassing conservative nonprofit groups.

If the president was looking for someone at the IRS to fire, Miller was his only option. Other bad actors, like Lois Lerner, who directs the IRS division in charge of overseeing tax-exempt organizations, are civil servants whose firing must go through a process removed from the White House.

Now we know that Miller deserved to be canned. Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee today, Miller said he came up with the idea to disclose the targeting of Tea Party groups by planting a question on a Friday at an American Bar Association conference, in hopes of softening the blow of the IRS Inspector General's report that the agency knew would be coming out the next week.

Miller told the committee of the planted question, "Obviously the whole thing was an entirely bad idea." Um, yeah.

Miller also had knowledge of the IRS's inappropriate targeting of Tea Party groups as early as May 2012 in his role as deputy commissioner but failed to inform either the president or Congress. Obviously Miller's isn't the only head that should roll at the IRS over this scandal. But now we can rest assured that his firing was deserved.

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