We should be crystal clear on the IRS scandal: while the targeting of conservative groups is grotesquely reminiscent of a banana republic technocracy, the larger problem is the inherent authoritarian nature of America’s Internal Revenue Service. There are certainly specific chapters of this growing scandal that promise to highlight the thuggish nature of our current Administration, and even more chapters that promise to expose the righteous infringement of government power; but the fact remains that, even in its most secular and non-partisan form, the IRS continues to be the most un-American institution most of us will encounter in our lifetime.
According to the Daily Caller:
Publicly released records show that embattled former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times during the Obama administration, more recorded visits than even the most trusted members of the President’s Cabinet.
In fact, the unprecedented number of visits become even more appalling when they are compared to George W Bush’s relationship with the agency. Bush met with Shulman’s predecessor only once in four years. Although, in all fairness, Bush may have been a little too busy running the country to fit in a business lunch with the director of the IRS. Maybe Obama just had some questions regarding tax-deductible golf expenses?
Of course the extremely cozy relationship between the White House and the Internal Revenue Service does not bode well for the Administration. But we would be wise to keep in mind that this is merely the symptom of a larger problem.
According to McClatchy Newspaper’s Washington Bureau, a group of anti-abortion activists in Iowa were forced “to promise the Internal Revenue Service it wouldn’t picket in front of Planned Parenthood.” Once again we (as freedom loving Americans) should feel a chill run down our spine. Tax exempt status being used as leverage for the elimination of someone’s First Amendment rights. Again. . . This is a symptom. This is not, by itself, the cancer that is consuming our American tradition.
Think, for a minute, about all the things the IRS can do to a group, or an individual, without causing a scandal. The IRS is allowed to impose wage garnishments without a trial. The IRS was given the green light to scour social media for signs of tax evasion. The agency imposes penalties and fines on citizens before any guilt has been proven in the court of law. Soon the agency will be able to levy penalties against citizens for not obtaining proper health insurance. The Revenue service has more power in a single audit than Eric Holder’s entire Department of Justice. . . And that’s when they behave.
The American tax system bestows upon a growing number of Washington Bureaucrats powers that are both chilling, and antithetical to the American experiment. While the abuse of this power is being exposed with the current scandal, the temptation to focus on the abuse alone – and not the unwieldy power that makes such abuse possible – must be resisted.
In 2009 Shulman said "I'm a big believer that if you're going to run a government agency and if you're going to operate with the power and authority of law that a government agency has, you need to be very focused on understanding the impact on the people that you effect. The phrase I always use with our people is we need to walk a mile in the taxpayers' shoes." He should forget the shoes, and sit in the chair of someone being audited.
America did not achieve its prosperity through increased government oversight and autocratic government agencies. America achieved status as the World’s beacon of hope through individualism, capitalism, and above all else a sense of ownership. We the people own our government. Our politicians, police officers, and even IRS agents work for us. They are subordinate to we the people. We do not owe answers to a group of unelected accountants. They owe explanations to the American people for their actions.
Unfortunately, in the last several decades, these simple American truths have become less well known. Progressives, Washington Elites, and big-government supporters have been waging a campaign to convince Americans that we answer to regulators, bureaucrats, and federal agencies. And as more Americans concede to the notion that we are subordinate to the powers of agencies like the IRS, revenuers and statists feel more emboldened to wield their relatively unchecked power with impunity.
The IRS scandal is outrageous for its resemblance of banana republic governing. The oversized apparatus that kept such corruption alive, however, is the far greater threat.