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Can Congress control its own monster?

Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the "IRS Obstruction: Lois Lerner's missing e-mails. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

There are now six ongoing investigations – costing $14 million so far – into whether the IRS deliberately withheld tax exemptions from certain conservative groups.

The latest wrinkle is that even though investigators have 67,000 emails from the computer of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the scandal, thousands more mysteriously vaporized in a computer crash three years ago.

And so on Tuesday, David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States himself, was called to testify.

“Is it fair to say that the IRS broke the Federal Records Act?” he was asked by Michigan Republican Tim Walberg.

“Any agency is required to notify us when they realize they have a problem that could be destruction or unauthorized disposal,” said Ferriero.

“But they didn’t do that,” said Walberg.

“That’s right,” said Ferriero.

“Did they break the law?” Walberg asked.

“I’m not a lawyer,” said Ferriero.

It was another frustrating session, but it gave Wahlberg a chance to come back to the main theme, that by claiming “the computer ate my emails”, the IRS is once again making the kind of excuse it would never accept from an ordinary taxpayer.

“We’re dealing with a law here that was broken by our agency that has the power to tax, which is also the power to destroy.”

Except that the way he puts it, it’s as if the IRS is this monster that created itself. But it’s not. It was created by Congress.

Congress has created a tax code that reads like a bowl of linguini, where billion dollar corporations can file returns claiming they’re poorer than Hillary Clinton.

Let’s all hope that if Congress can spend $14 million shaming a bunch of IRS managers, maybe one of these days it will spend a little time giving them something actually worth managing.

If you’re having second thoughts about your monster, Dr. Frankenstein, don’t just yell at it. Get control of it.

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