It seems like so long ago, but really isn't. In 2013, President Barack Obama acknowledged that the IRS had in fact been directing extra scrutiny to broadly defined right-wing "Tea Party" groups as they applied for various forms of tax-code recognition. In fact, Obama forced out the acting commissioner of the agency and pledged publicly, "I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but particularly the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives."
Paul Caron, a Pepperdine University academic who runs the always interesting TaxProf blog, recently celebrated the 1000th day of the scandal, which he argues (convincingly) has never really been covered or investigated fully. After Obama's first big statements, interest drifted away for the most part and even the president's bald acknowledgements that something was rotten at the IRS started to be walked back.
In a new USA Today column, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who's been linking to TaxProf for the past 1,000-plus days, sums up the social implications of the IRS scandal:
It's not just that evidence overwhelmingly points to the IRS having been weaponized in an effort to neutralize Obama's Tea Party opposition. It's that ordinary Americans can look at this and conclude that there's no reason to follow the law if they can get away with breaking it since the people in charge of enforcing the law clearly regard it with contempt.
In an influential essay several years back, Gonzalo Lira warned of the coming middle-class anarchy, when ordinary Americans decide to be no more lawful than they have to be.
There are plenty of nations that work that way — where both the ruling class and the ruled view the law with contempt and obey it only when forced to. Such places are, generally, not as nice as places where the rule of law pertains. But avoiding that kind of outcome requires principles and self-discipline on the part of the ruling class, something that contemporary America conspicuously lacks. Welcome to the era of hope and change.
Watch "3 MORE Reasons To Fear the IRS":