Many people may be angry about scandals that have emerged with regard to the Benghazi attacks, IRS political shenanigans, and government actions against the press, but more are oblivious to it all. It requires a modicum of civic knowledge to understand the nature of these offenses, a characteristic that is sorely missing among a substantial part of the population, who are more aware of celebrities and television shows, having never learned any of the basic principles of government while attending failing schools. Thus, without relentless media attention, they will likely blow over. That is why the actions against certain media figures are unbelievably stupid. Why James Rosen? He is not even a partisan. Why CBS and the Associated Press? Whether that is enough for the press to do a turnabout from their uncritical coverage and stay with these stories remains to be seen.
But what is likely to be more lasting is the scandal of the IRS targeting conservative groups for political reasons. A lesser known corollary to this is the vast network of left-wing “nonprofit” groups engaged in political activity who not only are given a pass but are even funded by the government. People tolerate the IRS because the assumption is that everyone gets treated the same. Once it becomes clear this is not true, the basic foundations of the revenue system are undermined.
While this partisan activity is an ominous abuse of government power, the damage may run deeper. The IRS has the authority to gather a considerable amount of personal information about citizens; in fact, it is sanctioned to compel disclosure from recalcitrants. With that there is a basic trust that this information will be handled discreetly and objectively by an impersonal bureaucracy. This trust has now been shattered, and with it there has been a loss of legitimacy, for it is no longer a disinterested public institution. Now it is nothing more than another part of the cluster of institutions aligned with the left, which is unsurprisingly providing cheering section condoning and applauding these abuses, and revealing a troubling totalitarian mindset.
It was natural all along for the IRS and its personnel to be aligned with the party of government, both having an interest in ever increasing revenue. But it is more than revenue. In the process they get to peruse and evaluated your life, assuming you’re part of that half of the population that files and pays taxes. Think about it. When you file your taxes the government is basically compelling you to account for yourself over the past year, and if you don’t meet the deadline you’re in trouble. You must report to the government every year. If you get audited, you’re guilty until proven innocent, and the IRS holds most of the cards. As the agency has expanded the powers and activities it has been allowed to pursue since its inception, it has been able to infringe on basic freedoms, reducing your privacy and ability to be left alone.
Can its legitimacy ever be restored? Should it be restored? There are many alternative revenue schemes that could be adopted that are far less intrusive. I’m not advocating any particular solution here, so much as the idea that we ought to be looking at alternatives that are far less intrusive on private life. This would restore some basic liberties while reducing the power of government, and hence the potential for that power to be abused. It would allow for a single standard applicable to everyone. Whether politicians will actually adapt such a system is another question, for they love tinkering with the tax code to appease various interests, or provide “incentives” and exemptions for what they want done. This results in a system that is not only unfair, but now clearly is illegitimate. The IRS is beyond salvation. It’s tainted. We should just get rid of it.