President Obama’s communications czar, Dan Pfeiffer, usually chooses his words carefully. So it’s no accident when he says, “The law is irrelevant” even as he concedes that the IRS targeting scandal is “inexcusable.” The law provides more than verbal knuckle wrapping for those who violate a sacred public trust, but Mr. Pfeiffer wants us to know the law is irrelevant here.
The law must be irrelevant if the official in charge of target selection – Sarah Hall Ingram – not only has not been disciplined, but has in fact been rewarded. She was rewarded first with $103,390 in bonuses for exemplary performance.
But more than that, she has been rewarded with a major promotion. She will no longer oversee who does and who does not get their requests for tax-exempt status granted. Instead, she will oversee the entire operation of the new Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare.
The IRS scandal is not unprecedented. As George Will and others have noted, President Richard Nixon was charged with political misuse of the IRS.
The vast powers of this agency are not limited to taxing us. They can demand and get a vast amount of information about our personal lives. Applicants seeking to register with IRS were required to divulge what they read, whom they hired, what they talk about, even what they pray about. One pro-life group was instructed to abstain from protesting the abortions performed by Planned Parenthood. In short, they had to agree to give up their constitutional right to petition for redress of grievances as a condition for exemption from taxes. As the editors of the Associated Press are learning, under this administration, First Amendment freedoms of religion, press, assembly, and petition are all at risk.
The president’s takeover of America’s health care – one sixth of our economy – was never to be without controversy. Twenty-six states joined a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court to oppose the usurpation of powers inherent in nationalized health care. They were frustrated last June by a high court ruling that even now seems less and less defensible as a matter of constitutional law, or even simply logic.
How can the individual mandate be a tax when the president who proposed the law, every congressional backer who spoke in favor of the law, and virtually every writer on the editorial pages who supported the law indignantly denied it was a tax? And if it is a tax, why did it not originate in the House of Representatives? Or, is the Constitution also irrelevant?
Opponents of ObamaCare who decried the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) were shouted down as alarmist. Who could ever believe that this non-partisan body would be manipulated for political ends?
A year ago, no one but “right-wing fearmongers” were worried about misuse of the IRS. TV comedian Jon Stewart dismissed such folks as the “tinfoil behatted” critics of enlightened government.
President Obama himself urged Ohio State graduates earlier this month to reject those who warn “that tyranny is always around the next corner.” Hardly had we turned the corner from the president’s speech than the IRS, Benghazi, and AP wiretap scandals burst into full bloom.
Tyranny is not around the corner. It is here. Not in an overt takeover, but in myriad small steps.
We are approaching the 237th anniversary of the nation’s independence. One of the key charges made in the Declaration was: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
New Offices? IPAB, anyone? White House czars for green energy and a host of other functions? Czars who are not confirmable by the Senate?
Swarms of officers? The left is widely pooh-poohing the conservative charge that the IRS will hire 16,000 new agents to superintend ObamaCare. Very well, let the Obama administration tell us how many agents it will hire. For an administration that promised to be “the most transparent in history,” this should be a small matter.
There is much else in that old Declaration of special importance to us today. The National Archives made a portentous announcement on July 4, 2010. Archivists there described the discovery of an early draft by Thomas Jefferson of the Declaration of Independence. In that draft, the young Virginian struck out the word subjects and inserted the word citizens. It was the first time, the Archives’ experts told us, that Americans referred to themselves as citizens.
In 2010, the Tea Party and many pro-life and Evangelical groups organized and spoke up. They exercised their constitutionally guaranteed rights. All this law-abiding protest helped to bring about a political “shellacking” for the president’s policies.
Grassroots activists urged Americans to behave as citizens, not subjects. For that, they opened themselves up to harassment and abuse by the IRS.
As we go forward, we must recognize the urgent need for a tax structure that will not lend itself to continual misuse by corrupt political administrations. It is time we consider abolishing the IRS and our subjective tax structure that invites government intrusion.
Most of all, we should never allow this tainted federal agency to supervise our health care, too. Otherwise, we would deliver into its hands not only our money, but our very lives.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.