Hardly a week goes by without another story of questionable decision-making by government officials, whether it’s on the national scene or even closer to home.
It’s not enough that we’ve had controversies involving the National Security Agency, the IRS or the State Department, but now it’s even stretching to areas closer to home.
Case in point: The Spokesman Review in Spokane, Wash. reported last week of a federal lawsuit that emanated from a traffic stop in Payette County involving an Idaho State Police patrolman. The trooper pulled over 69-year-old Darien Roseen’s truck with Colorado plates as Roseen pulled into a rest stop just inside the Idaho border.
An in-dash video cam caught the whole thing on tape and it wasn’t very pretty. The trooper, who was listening to hard-rock music in his patrol car as he made the stop, proceeded to harass Roseen and suggested the driver was trying to avoid him. He claimed Roseen looked glassy-eyed and asked the visibly shaken Roseen when he last smoked marijuana.
Roseen responded he never had used any marijuana “in my entire life.” The patrolman then persuaded Roseen to begin unloading the back of the pickup. Believing he could “smell” something in the truck, the trooper chose to impound the vehicle for a complete search.
The vehicle was removed by another trooper, taken to a Payette County jail and searched. Nothing was found. Roseen, on his way home from his daughter’s baby shower, was detained for several hours.
Roseen believes he was targeted because both Colorado and Washington have recently voted to allow recreational marijuana use and the Idaho trooper was profiling cars that had license plates from both states.
Idaho State Police officials deny such accusations, but one wonders what possessed the Idaho trooper to use such a ridiculous and blatant abuse of police authority when there was no other reason to stop Roseen. Funny. A 58-year-old Spokane man with Washington plates claims he was pulled over in the same area along the Idaho interstate during a similar time frame without any apparent violation.
In another unbelievable stretch of authority, the Internal Revenue Service is at it again, trying to collect very old debts from family members of deceased taxpayers for mistakes the government made in handing out benefits.
Mary Grice, a Maryland resident, received a big surprise when the IRS claimed she owed $2,996 in debts to the Social Security Administration for a 37-year-old mistake the Social Security Administration made to survivors of Grice’s father, who died in 1960 when Grice was 4 years old. In 1977, the Social Security Administration overpaid someone in the family, possibly Grice’s mother, Sadie, who died four years ago.
Now, the government wants siblings, in this case, Grice, to pay for the mistake the Social Security Administration made, even though the debt is 37 years old. In this case, the Social Security Administration wants someone who was barely out of her teens when the mistake occurred to fork over the cash.
Legislation was approved a few years ago to allow this to happen – a single sentence in an unrelated farm bill. According to a story in The Washington Post, the Treasury Department “has intercepted almost $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year – $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years.” The Post reported that the Treasury Department has collected $424 million in debts that are more than 10 years old since the collection effort started in 2011.
Grice, like Roseen, has filed suit hoping to get some relief from the courts.
Grice’s first inclination something was amiss was when the IRS tagged her tax refund and deducted money owed by her deceased parents.
Collecting debts from deadbeats is one thing, but going after children of long-deceased parents just seems ludicrous. To simply deduct the debts from someone’s tax refund without any communication is just un-democratic.
But isn’t that what seems to be happening more and more with our government? What happened to the words of Abraham Lincoln? “Government of the people, for the people, by the people shall not perish from the Earth.”
Looks like the government is in the process of rewriting the quote to, “Government for the people, by and of the government, shall not perish from the Earth.”
We definitely need change, and soon.
Postscript to last month’s column: In March, I wrote about my niece, Lisa, and her family and specifically focused on her son, John Sherle. I mentioned John was one of the best high school point guards here in Idaho. State high school coaches must have agreed with my assessment. John was recently named to the first-team, all-Idaho State Basketball squad for 2014.
In review, John established myriad school records for his Rocky Mountain High Grizzlies.
I just wonder what those career numbers might have looked like if John had not missed almost half his sophomore season with a broken hand. He’s a remarkable basketball player and even more remarkable young man.
Bill James is a former Daily Republic editor and publisher now living in Meridian, Idaho, a suburb of Boise.