It seems that every time a rock is turned over in the widening scandal surrounding the IRS, ever more selective aggression toward the political right is found, suggesting a broader anti-political right agenda at work:
While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.
The emerging stories from real people raise questions about whether the IRS scrutiny extended beyond applicants for tax-exempt status and whether individuals who donated to these tax-exempt organizations or to conservative causes also were targeted.
Taken by itself, the IRS firestorm is bad enough. The optics are terrible: the IRS executive at the center of the scandal pleads the 5th. Not one but two top IRS executives have resigned. “Tea Party”, “patriot”, and pro-life groups get extra scrutiny and months, even years in delays, if they are approved at all, while Planned Parenthood’s tax-exempt status is breezily renewed and Mr. Obama’s half brother’s charitable foundation gets fast-tracked to approval in less than a month. And just the other day we learned that acting IRS commissioner Mr. Schulman visited the White House 157 times during the period in which all these right-wing groups were targeted, an incredibly high frequency for someone who is not a policy-making official and leading some to wonder aloud if the use of the IRS to target political adversaries borders on Nixonian.
However, even as bad as this looks, I am not convinced that real, substantive change will occur. Yes, a fish rots from the head down, and the removal and/or impeachment of marauding elected officials and political appointees and a Chief Executive fond of instructing his allies to “punish our [political opponents]” and “get in their faces” would certainly slow this abuse of government power.
Yet I am not so sanguine, for I do not think these abuses are idiopathic to this administration but rather an expression of the liberalist values, ethics, and even antipathies of the public servants that comprise the fourth branch of government–the bureaucratic state. The assault on the political and cultural Right isn’t a bug…it’s a feature. And it’s widespread. Consider:
* The DoJ pursued investigated Fox News reporter James Rosen for his reporting on leaked classified information about the state of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, seizing his telephone records, his security badge access records, and event searching his email traffic. The investigating FBI agent wrote in an affadavit that Mr. Rosen had broken the law “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in the leak, a noteworthy statement in view of the First Amendment.
* The law enforcement community, led by the Federal government, considers religious and conservative Americans to be a greater threat to national security than Islamist radicals.
* The IRS gave the private, not-to-be-released confidential documents of right-wing groups to left-wing group Pro-Publica.
* The Pentagon tapped anti-Christian bigot and Christophobe Mikey Weinstein to help write DoD policy on religious tolerance. This is the same fellow who said “Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces”. Presumably Mr. Weinstein does not consider himself to be a member of a well-funded and intolerant gang of fundamentalist zealot secularists foisting a weaponized version of the secular religion on American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.
* HHS erects (no pun intended) a website aimed at girls 10-16 called “girlshealth.gov” which informs visitors about abortifacients, homosexuality, and mutual masturbation. I take this time to note that, perhaps mercifully, there is no brother site “boyshealth.gov”.
Worse, as center-left law professor Jonathan Turley notes, the bureaucrats run the show, now that government has effectively become too big to govern:
The vast majority of “laws” governing the United States are not passed by Congress but are issued as regulations, crafted largely by thousands of unnamed, unreachable bureaucrats. One study found that in 2007, Congress enacted 138 public laws, while federal agencies finalized 2,926 rules, including 61 major regulations.
This rulemaking comes with little accountability. It’s often impossible to know, absent a major scandal, whom to blame for rules that are abusive or nonsensical. Of course, agencies owe their creation and underlying legal authority to Congress, and Congress holds the purse strings. But Capitol Hill’s relatively small staff is incapable of exerting oversight on more than a small percentage of agency actions. And the threat of cutting funds is a blunt instrument to control a massive administrative state — like running a locomotive with an on/off switch.
The autonomy was magnified when the Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that agencies are entitled to heavy deference in their interpretations of laws. The court went even further this past week, ruling that agencies should get the same heavy deference in determining their own jurisdictions — a power that was previously believed to rest with Congress. In his dissent in Arlington v. FCC, Chief Justice John Roberts warned: “It would be a bit much to describe the result as ‘the very definition of tyranny,’ but the danger posed by the growing power of the administrative state cannot be dismissed.”
The judiciary, too, has seen its authority diminished by the rise of the fourth branch. Under Article III of the Constitution, citizens facing charges and fines are entitled to due process in our court system. As the number of federal regulations increased, however, Congress decided to relieve the judiciary of most regulatory cases and create administrative courts tied to individual agencies. The result is that a citizen is 10 times more likely to be tried by an agency than by an actual court. In a given year, federal judges conduct roughly 95,000 adjudicatory proceedings, including trials, while federal agencies complete more than 939,000.
Of course, federal agencies officially report to the White House under the umbrella of the executive branch. But in practice, the agencies have evolved into largely independent entities over which the president has very limited control. Only 1 percent of federal positions are filled by political appointees, as opposed to career officials, and on average appointees serve only two years. At an individual level, career officials are insulated from political pressure by civil service rules. In the new regulatory age, presidents and Congress can still change the government’s priorities, but the agencies effectively run the show based on their interpretations and discretion.
[T]he suggestion that someone, even the president, is in control of today’s government may be an illusion.
Given that public sector unions routinely support Democrat candidates and solid majorities of both union and non-union government workers vote Left, I am not surprised at all that Lefty “institutional capture” would spell trouble for religious or culturally conservative Americans. Indeed, I would be shocked if the wide discretion and latitude to interpret regulations, implement programs, and try and convict violators in extra-judicial courts granted to 4th-branch bureaucrats would not express themselves in asymmetrical treatment and liberalist cultural aggression. It makes perfect sense that citizens and groups whose values and actions are in synchrony with liberalist-dominated government agencies will find sympathetic ears, speedier service, and their values and priorities reflected in government websites, while those whose values and political leanings are asynchronous with those same agencies and public servants are more likely to be greeted with skepticism and increased scrutiny, if not outright hostility.
When Chief SCOTUS justics John Roberts warns us that “It would be a bit much to describe the result as ‘the very definition of tyranny,’ but the danger posed by the growing power of the administrative state cannot be dismissed”, I think he’s understating the problem. It is the very definition of tyranny, at least it would appear so to those of the right who find themselves under the thumb of a too-big-to-govern government run by liberalists, some of whom take a former community organizer’s aggressive stick-it-to-your-enemy rhetoric to heart. It may not be a conspiracy of the sort characterized by smoke-filled rooms, but it certainly may be a conspiracy comprised of those who “spire”–breathe–“con”…together.