So, how was your week? Chances are you had a better one than our president did. No fewer than three major scandals engulfed the White House this week before lunchtime on Tuesday. Not since Bill Clintons second term have I heard the term culture of corruption get bandied about so freely.
Of all the things that have gone wrong for Obama this week, I think the targeted auditing by the IRS of conservative political groups may be the most damaging and long-lasting scar on his credibility and popularity. Thats a bit ironic since to date there is no evidence he had any knowledge or complicity in that situation, but when youre the man in charge you are held liable for everything that happens on your watch.
As it turns out, political misuse of the IRS to attack the opponents of the sitting president is far from a new thing. There are plenty of well-documented instances of the IRS being used as an attack dog for whoever occupied the White House from FDR all the way to (of course) Bill Clinton.
But no one used the IRS to his political advantage more than John F. Kennedy did. The abuses during the Kennedy years didnt just involve rogue IRS officials either -- audits were conducted at the direct request of powerful politicians. Kennedy directed the IRS to aggressively audit political groups on both the left and right, and once even ordered an audit to be done on some folks who were noisily interrupting his vacation time.
The problem here is not, in my opinion, that Obama or Kennedy or Clinton was corrupt. Of course they were corrupt -- they were successful politicians. The problem is really the fact that the IRS exists at all, at least in its current far-too-powerful form.
A really nice silver lining to this latest example of IRS abuse of power would be if the movement to get rid of the institution altogether would gain some momentum.
The federal government is too big, too powerful and too intrusive in our lives, and the IRS is the tool that it uses to keep us under its thumb. Congressmen and presidents pass out tax breaks to whoever they choose and tax and/or audit those they dont favor. Imagine if we took that power away from them with a flat tax or a national sales tax. No more burdensome paperwork to have to complete (or more likely to pay someone else to complete for you) by April 15 every year. No more audits. No more worrying about how the government will penalize you for investment decisions that you make.
Its a pleasant thought. But it wont be an easy sell, especially with the man we currently have in office. The progressives say we need a progressive income tax system to make sure the rich pay their share and that the burden of financing the government doesnt fall disproportionately on the poor and middle class.
Come on. Does anyone really think our current tax system is fair to anyone? Those of us who pay in pay way too much and there are far too many people who pay no taxes but are feeding at the government trough. We can do better. Im certainly ready to try another way.
Either finance the government with a consumption tax, or let us all pay a flat rate and get rid of all the tax breaks and penalties that necessitate having a huge collection agency that is quite obviously ripe for abuse.
There are already proposals out there to implement one of these plans, but they havent been able to gain much traction because it would mean a less-powerful federal government and few of those in power want to give any of that power up. Change will only come if we demand it and refuse to take no for an answer.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.