Example of how the media promotes conflict

In my business career, I became accustomed to the US regulatory process. Congress would pass laws and the Department of Labor (DOL), IRS, EEOC, etc. would pass regulations to administer the laws. And, they used to be reported as such. The DOL released proposed regulations today, e.g.

Now, to promote conflict, these departments are rolled up into one category – the Obama Administration. This likely started before with George W. Bush, but to me it is done to represent that the President must be extending his powers. When, in fact, it is these departments doing what they have always done, nothing more or less.

The process works usually like this. A department will propose new or revised regulations to address a new law or an outdated one. There will be a formal comment period where feedback is sought. Then, the proposed regulations will be revised and another comment period may occur. Then, the regulations will be released.

To their credit, the departments do listen to feedback. And, sometimes if the pushback is so severe, they will be pulled and redone. Back in the early 1990s, there were some regulations passed that were so-God awful (called Section 89 to regulate non-discrimination in healthcare benefits), they were pulled.

While regulations come in all shapes and sizes, I want to take the chance to mention my favorite regulations issued by the IRS. I call them the Mea Culpa regulations, but they are better known as the Voluntary Compliance Program. In essence, if an employer discovers an error in compliance, it can remedy the problem and approach the IRS with its solution. They would pay a set small fine from a menu of choices and demonstrate how they fixed the problem. Often, it would be restoring lost benefits or financial restitution to affected employees. This happens more than you would think, but it is a great example when government gets it right.

So, the next time you hear reference to the Obama administration doing something. Let’s not jump to conclusions. It may just shoddy reporting on a mundane task.



10 thoughts on “Example of how the media promotes conflict

    • You are welcome. You may find amusing that all the fuss made over the IRS focusing on conservative groups is most likely due to centralized processing of complex tax exempt organizations. There were many being set-up wanting tax exempt status, so they were likely channeled to people who knew what they were doing. This happened often during my business dealings, where one IRS office handled certain things. Keith

  1. It’s so much easier to point to “The Obama Administration” (except when the president does something good) than to identify the appropriate bureau that is responsible. And, heaven knows, we do love the path of least resistance!!

    • Hugh, to me it is lazy as well as inaccurate. I guess referencing the DOL or EEOC are not exciting. Now the IRS, which everyone dislikes, will be used in a bad story. That is why a mentioned the Voluntary Compliance Program. Truth be told, when we fund the IRS more, revenue goes up as they follow through on more audits. This is why Cruz proposal to do away with the IRS looks great on a bumper sticker, but is poor policy. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: Here is a funny and prescient story around the terrible Section 89 proposed regs. Our company and competitors had many a seminar with employers on how to comply with Section 89. They were unduly complex, the worst example of bad regulations. My mentor was speaking at one seminar and was asked what he thought would happen. He said, “These regs are so badly done, my guess is they will pull them.” One attendee heard that and when he returned to his office took all of his Section 89 files and threw them in a trash can, quite relieved. While somewhat daring a move, Mr. Trash Can was vindicated when they were pulled a few months later.

    • “Inform” should be highlighted as you did. Some news sources cover so shallow, they miss the story, while others like to misinform and, in some cases disinform.

      Easy exanple. The TSA lines are not the story, they are the result. The story is a Republican Congress shifted TSA funding to pay down the debt, a robbing Peter to pay Paul. Then, they acted surprised when long lines occurred.

  3. Note to Readers: To me, the greatest abuse by televised news (and sometimes borrowed in print) is side-by-side or split screen so-called experts. This implies that an issue is even-weighted, when it may be not. An expert with thirty years of research experience may be arguing with public relations person. Climate change is a good example where it is no longer an even debate, with so many scientists and scientific organizations supporting climate change is man-influenced. It is a 97 to 3 debate.

  4. I find it interesting when the news reports on a “new rule”, only to do my own research and find out it was a proposed rule that could be adopted sometime in the future.

    • Roseylinn, you are more informed than most newscasters. To your point, a bill will pass one of the houses and some reporters present as passed. On regulations, revenue rulings, revenue procedures, etc., we actually have a good process. Yet, the average Joe would never know that. Thanks for your comment, Keith

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