As we watch a string of scandals detonate across the Obama Administration, we should all be able to agree that the abuse of government power to punish political opposition is hideously wrong. Sometimes we struggle to define the precise boundaries of “corruption,” as a growing government extends its power into the private sector, and the daily conduct of its business becomes inherently corrupt. Special interests swarm around the Leviathan State like remora fish around a shark. Everyone is either getting punished or subsidized by the government. Political connections become the most valuable economic resource. (If only President Obama’s cronies in the “green energy” racket had been given half the scrutiny this Administration directed at Tea Party groups, imagine how much money taxpayers would have saved!)
The ruling class reaches the apex of its power when it no longer has to tax and spend money to promote its agenda, or even deploy coercive regulations that could be traced back to particular administrators; instead, the ruling class need only express its desires, and those eager to curry favor will scramble to obey. For an example, watch the unfolding scandal around Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ efforts to squeeze money out of the industries she regulates.
But even in that thick stew of corruption – as competition under the impartial rule of law is replaced by a struggle to win the zero-sum affections of the State – we can easily see that government itself is the greatest “special interest” of all. When politicians and bureaucrats abuse power to protect themselves, we should recoil in disgust. There are right and wrong ways for politicians to win support, but there is no “good” way for them to punish opposition.
This disgust grows particularly acute when the Internal Revenue Service is corrupted. We are obliged to place a great deal of faith in the IRS. The agency carries an extraordinary burden of public trust.
Our tax system is no simple matter of computing a flat percentage against easily documented income. Both individuals and corporations must submit an enormous amount of information to the IRS, so their compliance with the State’s agenda can be measured. The tax code is an instrument of control, not just a method of gathering revenue. If that’s all it was, it would be much less intrusive, and the IRS would be much smaller.
The government distributes a great deal of favor through the tax code. Behaving in the “right” way earns various deductions and credits. Excessive success and “incorrect” investment is punished. In order for this system to function, the behavior of citizens and their corporations must be carefully monitored. Failure to comply with this surveillance brings unfortunate consequences (unless the offender has powerful political connections, of course.)
As the tax code grows, and exerts greater levels of control, the volume of information Americans must place into Internal Revenue’s trust necessarily grows. It can’t work any other way. Every activity with tax ramifications must be monitored. Very few activities are without tax ramifications now. ObamaCare is one prominent example of a bill that makes vast new segments of American life the business of the IRS, at both the individual and corporate level.
The IRS must fulfill this trust with the highest level of fidelity, respecting the privacy of every American. Whatever moral legitimacy Big Government retains depends upon this utterly. The IRS is a socialist’s favorite agency, nourishing the State with blood drawn from the unruly private sector, while simultaneously imposing the economic preferences of wise and benevolent government. It brings in revenue to fund the State, and it controls private behavior. It must conduct itself as the sacred temple of socialism, in which the sanctity of the tax confessional is absolute.
Otherwise, a system that has already been criticized as tyranny becomes completely indistinguishable from it. The IRS is not meant to serve as an opposition research team for the ruling Party. Its power is not meant to stifle discourse. No one should believe that more fervently than a sincere liberal. No one should have less tolerance for the corruption of that sacred encounter between citizens and their rulers, in which the property of individuals is transformed into sustenance for the divine general will of The People.
Liberals believe with all their hearts that every citizen should have a voice in shaping the general will, do they not? They measure “freedom” not by independence from the government, but rather by the ability to influence its course. Everyone is allowed to speak, then an election settles our differences, and everyone is expected to obey the winners. If the government is able to use its power to suppress that noble democratic process – especially the singular power of the IRS – what are we left with, except the mere tyranny that liberals claim to oppose?
To be honest, our gigantic central government already has many other resources for influencing the electoral process. It has many resources for purchasing votes and intimidating dissent. The ideal of a giant government that humbly serves The People is the absurd primal delusion of the modern Left. Let us begin with the absolutely unacceptable sin of corrupting the IRS, work our way back through every agency, and see how many Americans we can set free from that delusion.