The moralists in Italy have been very tough on tax evaders, starting with their bete noire Silvio Berlusconi, who has recently been convicted of tax evasion and faces (theoretically, mind you) several years of imprisonment and (more realistically) banishment from public office. One thoughtful wag commented that it seemed odd to bring the full weight of the state on the country’s leading tax payer, but after a long court case and two appeals, and even though the sentence may bring down the delicate coalition government, no one is challenging the legitimacy of the courts’ decisions.
A voice of reason recently emerged from a most surprising throat just a few days before the Berlusconi sentence was issued: Stefano Fassina, the vice minister for the economy, permitted himself — appropriately enough, at a conference on the underground economy — the observations that “taxes are unsustainably high,” and “people avoid taxes in order to survive.” Fassina is a man of the Left, coming from the “communist” wing of the Democratic Party, so it was a real man-bites-dog story. He went on to insist that this was not a moral question but a very real survival issue, and he mused that many tax evaders would happily pay their debts to the state if taxes were lower.
The Italians say: “When the state steals, it turns us all into thieves.” When the taxman is corrupt, it corrupts us all.
And that is why the IRS scandal is truly the pregnant mother of them all, giving birth to corrupt institutions and corrupt citizens at an alarming and depressing rate. We can speedily recover from the disgusting Benghazi affair by changing leaders. But it will take a full-scale purge to restore the tax collector to virtue.
Ted Cruz has the right idea: abolish the IRS and reform the tax code so that anyone can easily calculate how much he owes, and see that it is fair.
That’s no small task. As Mark Levin will tell you, it might even require a new Constitutional Convention.