A Culture of Intimidation
Now, even with all of this natural tendency to do exactly what they did, a responsible administration would take care to set a tone from the top that such behavior was unacceptable. But “responsible,” at least in that sense of the word, has never been an accurate adjective for the Obama White House, and in fact its tone has exacerbated the situation, from the very beginning. Four years ago (almost to the day), the president made an unfunny joke about auditing people who merited his displeasure. A year or so later, in a similar “Ha ha” moment, he joked about sending predator drones after a pop music group. These sorts of things were occurring about the same time as he was exhorting Latinos to “go out and punish” their mutual enemies, and making it clear to Republicans that he was “keeping score.”
After the Supreme Court ruled against the administration in Citizens United (the case that some defending the IRS are claiming was the cause of the new scrutiny, despite the fact that it started before the caseloads began to increase), President Civility lectured them, a captive audience at the State of the Union speech, lying about the ruling to their faces (well, all right, to be fair, he may not have been lying -- President Constitutional Scholar may have just been ignorant on the nature of the ruling). This undoubtedly made many in his government think that it gave them license to fight the ruling in the trenches against the sudden growth in enemies of the state it had spurred, since their president had said it was wrong.
Let me (as the president would say) be clear. I will be in no way shocked if emails are discovered showing that the White House actively ordered IRS officials to go after Tea Party groups, while green lighting his political allies. My only point is that, sadly, it wouldn’t have been necessary for them to do so.
When the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170, it wasn’t done at the direct order of King Henry II. It didn’t have to be. All it required was for the monarch to muse, aloud, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
But sadly, while we have badly needed a better president for over four years, the real problem isn’t the men and women running the system, and it wasn’t a failure of the system -- it is the system itself.
The Founders, in their wisdom, understood that the key to good government lay not in hoping that the governors would be angels, but to restrict its power, knowing that they would never be. We can fire employees, we can even jail them, but the problem won’t be solved until the power of the “service” is reined in vastly. Step one might be to re-ban government employee unions, including that of the IRS, because that’s part of the system we can fix, and this deserves that death penalty.
Ideally, of course, the income tax would be abolished entirely, but perhaps a simpler and (perhaps) more politically feasible solution would be to at least eliminate the corporate income tax, so that no one would have to justify their tax status to the bureaucrats. It’s not possible to prevent people, particularly people whose goal is power, from abusing it. All we can do is deprive them of it. Newtown didn’t justify any of the legislative attempts to disarm us that followed it, and even some who jumped on that bandwagon are now recognizing that we need control of government more than control of guns. But if this travesty of tyranny doesn’t lead to serious tax reform, and government reform, we will have missed a true opportunity.