A Bad Week for Obama, a Worse Week for Statism



Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller is testifying before the House as part of an investigation into the IRS targeting Tea Party groups. If you're not watching C-SPAN right now, you're missing a savage flogging. Here's a sample statement, from Rep. Roskam (R-Ill.) to Miller: "I find it ironic that you're arguing today, 'The IRS is not corrupt, we're just incompetent'."

As with Benghazi and the DOJ's seizure of the AP's phone records, the right's response to the IRS scandal has been to call for resignations, firings, and–at least a few times–impeachment. Where does that get you? Miller is resigning at the behest of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and the IRS is implementing the recommendations of the Treasury Inspector General. After all that–which is pretty much all House Republicans are asking for–the IRS will still be an insanely powerful government agency and in the business of policing speech. 

Writing at Real Clear Politics, Ben Domenech argues that Republicans who think about these events through a partisan lens, rather than an ideological one, and who attribute these "scandals" to individuals, rather than to bureaucracy, are missing an opportunity to challenge statism:   

Marco Rubio's remarks the other day illustrate the right and the wrong way to talk about these scandals. Decrying Chicago politics and a fractured Washington, the failure of hope and change, is fine and good. But there's a limit to it, and if done poorly, the attacks imply that the problem here isn't the statism, it's the guy at the head of it. In other words, that if Obama was really the ethically clean reform-minded progressive technocrat he styled himself as when running for office, things would be just fine. In effect, this partisan morality play approach allows the Democratic Party an escape route which they shouldn't have: just firing a bunch of lower level people.

Here's the hard thing Republicans have to do if they don't want this crisis to go to waste: they have to ignore their id, the temptation of the sugar high of partisan point-scoring. They must willfully set aside Obama's presence in the fray, leaving the short term personalized attacks on the table, and go after the much bigger prize. Obama isn't running for office again. Liberalism is. Making this about him is a short term boost to the pleasure center of the conservative brain. Making this about the inherent falsehood of the progressive project will help conservatism win.

The progressive answer to this is more rules and regulators, more agencies and safeguards and accountability projects. Republicans should recognize this intervention for the ridiculousness it is – creating more federal entities to watch over federal entities – and focus their arguments instead on the only solution which will actually work: removing power from the federal government and returning it to the states or the people. The only way to ensure that government doesn't abuse a power is to make sure it doesn't have this power in the first place.

Or as Steven Greenhut writes in today's column, "Any sane person would conclude that all administrations and bureaucracies essentially are corrupt given that they thrive on the exertion of power of other people."

From Reason.tv: West Wing Weak: Your Guide to Obama's Scandal-Filled Week