Lessons from the IRS scandal

President Obama tried today to catch up with the IRS scandal, condemning the IRS officials who targeted conservatives. Obama clearly perceives the threat this scandal poses to trust in government, and hence to his project of vast expansion of governmental power. It’s possible too that he feels genuine outrage about the IRS’s targeting of conservatives.

But neither presidential outrage nor condemnation can mitigate the central concern that this scandal reinforces — that the federal government is dominated by leftists who, quite apart from what the executive may desire, are eager to use their power to promote liberalism and harm liberalism’s opponents.

Those who share this concern should oppose on principle all expansions of government power that put bureaucrats in a position to advance liberalism through the exercise of discretion, or that rely on them to curtail their liberalism by faithfully following the law. Obamacare is a clear case in point. As Seth Mandel writes:

[W]ith few exceptions, Democrats don’t see ObamaCare as a means to improving health; they see it as a massive expansion of government empowered to transfer wealth and play favorites. Expanding government’s power and reach–if possible, without a related increase in transparency or accountability–is the central ideological component of the modern Democratic Party’s worldview.

When Republicans warned of “death panels,” the overheated rhetoric was describing an entirely realistic scenario: ObamaCare putting unaccountable bureaucrats between patients and their doctors. And the line of attack resonated because the Democrats’ plans were so baldly undemocratic and invasive.

Immigration reform is another example. The Schumer-Rubio legislation puts enormous trust in bureaucrats — both to follow the law and to exercise in good faith the vast discretion the law provides them. We are asked to trust the bureaucracy when it comes to guessing whether impossible-to-calculate border security metrics have been met; when it comes to processing applications for upgrades in status, up to and including citizenship; and so forth.

We know that federal bureaucrats are willing to violate the law and/or the public trust by acting viciously against conservatives. Clearly, bureaucrats will be more than willing to violate the law and/or the public trust by acting humanely (as they see it) to maximize immigration into the U.S and to increase the number of left-leaning voters.

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