The power to tax is the power to destroy.

Daniel Webster, McCulloch v. Maryland 1819

imagesIt’s important to remember, perhaps better never to forget, that government has no conscience.  None.  Some believe that government will “take care of me,” but government has no caring.  It has only policies, imperatives and whims, all of which can change at a moment’s notice, executed by nothing grander than the lowest level functionary who decides they don’t like your politics, the fact that you might be criticizing the current government, or the color of your shirt.

As we have recently discovered—rather than suspected—the whims of government and its functionaries on all levels unquestionably adhere to one of life’s more insightful quotations, made by Lord Acton: 

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

There has been much speculation along the line of “what did Mr. Obama know and when did he know it.”  The most recent gaseous emanations from the White House suggested that they’ve descended to admitting that rather than being criminally liable, they’re idiots, and that Mr. Obama’s various advisors actually decided not to bother his pretty little head about such minor issues as the IRS criminally abusing innocent citizens who just happened to be of the opposing political philosophy.

I’ll leave it to you, gentle readers, to determine how likely it is that the most overtly and thuggishly political of all American presidents was not fully informed, at the earliest possible moment, of each and every political issue that might harm his political viability, his messianic image, and the exercise of his power.  I’ll also leave it to you to determine how truthful Mr. Obama is, and how often he chooses to employ little bits of the truth as a political, rather than a moral, tactic.

Where the IRS is concerned, who knew what, when is an important matter in the overall scheme of things and in determining which criminal charges–if any–might be appropriate, but a secondary matter in everyday reality.  The relationship between the American people and the IRS is fraught with distrust in the best of times.  An agency of the government given the power, without due process of law, to seize every asset one possesses, and to put them in prison while essentially forcing them to prove themselves innocent against a presumption of guilt, will tend to do that.  Only by employing the highest ethical standards, and by each and every agent always keeping in mind the golden rule—treat others as you would like to be treated—can the IRS be tolerated by the American public.  And now we find that the IRS, from the highest to the lowest levels, has decided to harass and harm fellow Americans for daring to exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of speech and association.  No doubt, this abuse of power has even baser motivations, particularly, crippling the ability of conservative and libertarian citizens to raise money and oppose Barack Obama in the 2012 election.

In brief, the IRS chose sides and betrayed every principle of our constitutional republic.  It betrayed America and all she stands for.

And despite a weak apology of sorts occasioned only by the fact that its malfeasance was about to be exposed, the commissioner of the IRS appeared before Congress claiming to know nothing, but did so in a particularly arrogant, contemptuous manner reminiscent of the worst of Mr. Obama who seldom misses a chance to pose with his nose in the air in the manner of Benito Mussolini.

I have no doubt that these practices originated at the highest levels of our government, and at the highest levels of the IRS, and were ordered from on high to the lowest levels, the individual agents who actually handled the paperwork, the requests from Americans for the tax free status the organizations they wished to establish deserved.  Therefore, it’s particularly frustrating to watch Congress hold hearings in which they fecklessly question various high-ranking bureaucrats who pretend to have no idea who might have done anything wrong, and congressmen pretend they have no idea which pertinent questions they should ask next.

As I write this, The Washington Post is reporting that Lois Lerner, the woman in charge of the section of the IRS primarily responsible for targeting conservatives, the woman who, for her efforts to destroy the trust of the American people in the IRS and the government, was promoted, according to her lawyer, is planning to take the Fifth when she testifies before Congress.

UPDATE: 05-22-13 1900 CST:  Lerner, after delivering a statement in which she declared herself utterly innocent of any wrongdoing, took the Fifth.

That’s the difference between actual working Americans and the Congress and our permanent bureaucratic class.  In the real world, everything and everyone operates on trust.  If we can’t trust that the people with whom we work will do what they say they’ll do, and do it properly and on time, no one can accomplish much of anything.  If those people lie to us, even just a little, they’re of no use to us.  If they do wrong, knowingly harming others, they’re despicable.  And when people make mistakes, it is not in the least difficult to discover who made them and why and to correct them.

So for the benefit of the Congress, it’s quite simple: find out which agents actually worked on each of the 500 cases–the numbers of which are daily increasing–where people were stonewalled, harassed and mistreated.  Their names are on that paperwork.

Talk to each of those people, and in each case, read their work and see what they did or didn’t do and how long it took and why.  Demand to know why they did what they did and who told them to do it.  I suspect that few of them will be willing to fall on their swords for higher-ranking miscreants.  Then talk to each of those second level supervisors and ask the same things.  Relatively few of them will be willing to fall on their swords, and so on and so on until there is no doubt who ordered what and who did what when.  This is not rocket science.  This is how the real world works, and it’s time the IRS joined the real world.

That done, every one of them must be fired and/or prosecuted if they’ve violated the law; Ms. Lerner apparently believes she has.  And if no one violated a law, it’s time for Congress to actually earn their keep and make those kinds of abuses of power federal felonies.

I’m being too harsh, you say?  Remember that at the very least, each and every one of those IRS employees, from the top to the bottom, had to know that what they were doing was wrong.  They made a conscious choice to harm honest, law abiding Americans doing nothing more than trying to exercise their rights under the law.  They chose to deny them their constitutional freedoms, to harass and terrify them, and to cost them money they didn’t have.  In many cases, it wasn’t enough to cause them temporary stress and harm, no, they had to stretch it out for years on end.

What kind of person does that?  What kind of person purposely sets out to abuse and brutalize others?  What kind of person continues to do it–for years?  Are these people sociopaths?  Common thugs?  Criminals?  Is every employee of the IRS willing to do this to their fellow Americans?

It’s plain to see that power does corrupt, and that exposure to governmental power causes individuals to adopt the traits of government such as caring nothing for those they are hired to serve.  And just as government has no conscience, so too do these IRS employees have no conscience.

If the public is to have any trust in the IRS, if any trust in the government is to ever be restored, each and every person in the IRS, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice, and other government agency involved, and the White House, must be fired and/or otherwise removed from government service.  Then we can talk about necessary reforms.  Abolishing the entire IRS might be a good start.

Failing to take extraordinary steps to right this multitude of wrongs may very well constitute crossing a line no sane man wants to cross.  If that turns out to be the case, taking the Fifth may one day be the least of the worries of governmental officials.

I’ll let you know when the IRS audits me.