Posts tagged ‘democracy’

May 15, 2013

Special Report: IRS Scandal Shakes Washington

This week, the US Internal Revenue Service acknowledged and apologized for behavior that had long been rumored. The IRS improperly targeted for extra scrutiny conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

IRS logoThe IRS did not ultimately deny tax-exempt status to a single group receiving extra scrutiny. Some say this proves that the actions of the IRS were baseless.

The scandal has now shaken the nation’s capital:

President Barack Obama directed Jack Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, to request the resignation of Steven Miller, Acting IRS Commissioner.

Miller resigned and Lew accepted the resignation.

The Justice Department has initiated a criminal investigation.

Exercising its oversight responsibility, Congress has begun its own probe of the IRS scandal.

Obama addressed the nation on television saying, “It’s inexcusable and Americans are right to be angry about it and I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but particularly the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives.” He promised reforms.

When wrongdoing by the government is uncovered, it is rightfully news. But, this latest government scandal cuts deeper.

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January 18, 2013

Is MLK Day Just Another Day Off?

On Monday, January 21, Americans will celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. This is a national holiday rooted in the country’s core MLK Day logoideals.

“Service is a powerful way for citizens, nonprofits, the private sector and government to work together to meet critical needs and advance King’s dream of opportunity for all,” states the Corporation for National and Community Service. “MLK Day is an opportunity for Americans to put the core American principles of citizenship and service into action.”

These core ideals go back to the birth of the country. Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th century French historian and political writer, made a number of observations about America including:

The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”

“I must say that I have seen Americans make great and real sacrifices to the public welfare; and have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful support to one another.”

“If a stoppage occurs in a thoroughfare, and the circulation of the public is hindered, the neighbors immediately constitute a deliberative body; and this extemporaneous assembly gives rise to an executive power which remedies the inconvenience before anybody has thought of recurring to an authority superior to that of the persons immediately concerned.”

It is an American tradition that when we see a problem, we often will seek to solve it. We are not content to sit back, whine, and hope the government will take care of it for us. Certainly, government has its role. However, at the heart of the American democratic spirit is the notion of private citizen action to help one another and our society in general.

Volunteers do much good for our society. They also form an important force that allows our democracy to thrive. On MLK Day, hundreds of thousands of people will volunteer joining the millions who do so throughout the year. This call to service makes MLK Day unique among American national holidays.

43 percent of Americans volunteered in 2011, according to The World Giving Index 2011. The world average was 21 percent. Only four other nations ranked higher than the US for volunteerism in 2011 (Turkmenistan, Liberia, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan).

In the US, 42 percent of men and 44 percent of women volunteer. By age group, the percentage of the population that volunteered in 2011 breaks out as follows:

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