There are some critics who, faced with the overwhelming evidence of partisan corruption at the IRS, advocate abolishing the agency. That is a happy thought, but probably utopian. A possibly more achievable goal would be to deunionize the IRS, a first step in a process that should aim at deunionizing all federal agencies. Public-sector unions, as Daniel DiSalvo has pointed out in Government Unions and the Bankrupting of America, are a prescription for political corruption. The unions help elect politicians who in turn help the unions. The result is corruption and fiscal incontinence.
We may take government unions for granted as an inconvenient fact of life. But there is nothing inevitable about them. As DiSalvo notes:
That powerful government unions exist at all is a striking political development. The prevailing attitude among policymakers across the political spectrum was downright hostile well into the 1950s. President Franklin Roosevelt, one of labor’s best friends, wrote in 1937 that: “Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government. . . . The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” Other champions of organized labor thought the same way. The first president of the AFL-CIO, George Meany, believed it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” Their reasoning was that the elected representatives of the people would be forced to share their governing authority with unelected union officials whom voters could not hold accountable.
As the public watches IRS officials, from Commissioner John Koskinen on down, prevaricate, stonewall, and lie to Congress, a groundswell of outrage and disgust is rising. Doubtless the IRS, its union, and the Obama administration hopes that if it can only string out the hearings long enough, the outrage will falter and the disgust will die down. That is certainly possible.
Another possibility is that the outrage and disgust will continue to grow and an impatient public will demand reform. Deunionizing the IRS would be a good place to start.