An enemy is lurking among us, Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance (R) told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night: nonprofits with "radical left-wing ideology."
"The basic way this works is that the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Harvard University endowment — these are fundamentally cancers on American society," Vance said, "but they pretend to be charities, and so they benefit from preferential tax treatment." Carlson blinked his agreement, and he grinned when Vance suggested a solution: "Why don't we seize the assets of the Ford Foundation, tax their assets, and give it to the people who've had their lives destroyed by their radical open borders agenda?"
Political ancients of bygone eras, like myself, can tell you this line of attack isn't new. The proposal here is an escalated form of the IRS targeting scandal of the Obama administration, in which political nonprofits — mostly Tea Party-linked groups, but also some progressive organizations — were subjected to extra scrutiny while applying for tax-exempt status.
It should go without saying that this is unprincipled and shortsighted. And look, I don't expect Carlson and Vance to be something other than themselves. As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown acknowledges, they're "not principled torchbearers of conservative ideology but people who routinely espouse whatever outrage-mongering nonsense will get them attention and rile up their audiences." The seizure idea is utterly unsurprising in that regard.
But if principle is too much to ask, some very basic, self-protective foresight should not be — especially from people whose entire schtick is their own oppression and the social degradation of all they hold dear. There are serious arguments in favor of ending nonprofit tax exemptions across the board, but this isn't one of them. If the state can revoke tax exemptions and seize assets on grounds of ideological offense, why would Carlson and Vance imagine that power would only be wielded against people they dislike? The Gates Foundation has enough money to survive a loss of tax exemption. But a nonprofit like, say, a small rural church might not.
Undoubtedly Vance and Carlson know this. Their discussion is in that trollish, crowdpleasing, haha not really but seriously space where so much of the right operates today. They don't really expect to redistribute the Ford Foundation's assets. They just relish a conversation about hurting their enemies.