One, Two, Three Strikes You’re Out (Of Obamacare)

Only in America in the age of Barack Obama would we be talking about expanding the size and scope of a federal agency embroiled in multiple scandals involving the abuse of power.  One would have thought that the bitter lessons of the last hundred fifty years of presidential power would have taught this administration (especially one so supposedly publicly committed to the highest ethical standards).  But like their ignorance of economics and science, this administration is similarly know-nothing when it comes to history as well.

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To recap, the problems plaguing the IRS come in three basic flavors right now… like a tub of neopolitan ice cream made in a bureaucratic hell—and these three scandals are proof-positive that the IRS has no business whatsoever involving itself in the management of 1/6 of the US economy.

On the one side of this tub is the Tea Party scandal, which is unfolding on a daily basis.  We know, no thanks to those beholden to the President, that the IRS did target groups opposed to the President’s  agenda.  We do not know who gave the order, we do not know how far up the scandal goes, or the fullest extent of the agency’s tyrannical acts, only, really, that they served to frustrate opposition going into the President’s re-election cycle.

At the other end  are questionable practices involving agency middle management—bureaucrats apparently less interested in simply doing their actual jobs, and more interested in furthering their acting careers.  These budding thespians spent tens of thousands of dollars to develop their own episode of Star Trek (though given their acting talents it was unclear if it was TOS, TNG, or the Reboot) to be used as a “training video” for other IRS personnel.

And in the middle of all this are most recently uncovered financial improprieties—millions of dollars spent on conferences, thousands in speakers fees (including the hiring of an “artist” who painted pictures of Michael Jordan and Bono), and tens of thousands of IRS-issued credit cards, the oversight of which has been questionable at best.  While IRS’ field “proctologists” scrutinize every average American’s business expenses, their own expense receipts go joyfully uninspected—a touch of public policy irony that should not be lost on the every taxpayer.

So while the President goes and engages in the kabuki theatre of firing people who were within weeks of leaving the administration anyway, while the IRS Inspector General shrugs and says that while these employees were partying at conferences, spending without oversight, and making funny (kind of) videos, nobody was able to tell him just who gave the order to target Tea Party groups, while IRS officials go before Congress and either plead the 5th, make hollow apologies, or non-credible promises of reform, are we talking about radically reducing the scope and power of the Internal Revenue Service?

No.  We are talking about massively expanding that power.  We are talking about giving an unabashedly out-of-control and certifiably abusive agency an unprecedented amount of control over a massive  portion of our economy—and that fact speaks volumes of just how out-of-touch-with-reality our system has become.

Were we in a system in which reality governed, we would, at the most extreme, be recognizing that the near-century experiment in taxing income has failed.  That the warnings of the power such a federal agency would wield were precisely on point, and that logic would dictate that this systems needs to be scrapped.  Now, while I have never been an enthusiastic supporter of a consumption tax, I believe the time has come for some serious consideration of a national sales tax—scrapping the Internal Revenue Code (and, by extension, the IRS).

But absent the abolition of the IRS entirely, it would be insane for this nation to consider handing over a set of new powers to it—especially when the people overseeing these new powers are the very same people who were in charge of the IRS division that harassed conservative groups!

If Congress, members of both parties, are serious about reining in the abuses of governmental power, then as a basic gesture of faith, they need to reconsider any portion of Obamacare touched by the IRS—either reworking it entirely or removing it from the IRS’ purview, period.

Governance means recognizing when things are not working, and taking steps (sometimes drastic ones) to correct those problems when they occur.  To not make changes, to engage in mere window dressing, is not just political insanity—it invites a repeat of the very events that are the catastrophes we are seeing today.

We can change.  It just means waking up and recognizing that after three strikes, someone has to be out.  The IRS has had its time at bat.  It’s time for it to go and sit on the bench for a while.

Andrew Langer is President of the Institute for Liberty, one of the earliest Tea Party organizations.

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