Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Health Care, Immigration, Law, National Security, Politics, Taxes | Tags: Can We Fix Abusive Government?, The Slow Reveal of Scandal, What to Do About Scandal
“One of the greatest uses of scandal is to vividly demonstrate what new laws are needed and to create the political conditions to get them enacted.”
John Steele Gordon has a fascinating essay in The American, on the uses of scandal. He ranges back and forth in American history to illustrate some of our greatest scandals and how they played out.
Washington is suddenly awash with major scandals. The IRS has been caught abusing its powers regarding conservative organizations. The AP had its phone records seized without a court order. The White House explanation for the Benghazi attack has been shown to have been a tissue of lies made for political purposes. There might well be more scandals to come. The Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, has reportedly been routinely waiving the substantial fees to fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests for liberal organizations but not for conservative ones.
This has produced, naturally, a cacophony of talk among the chattering classes, much of it basically gossip. And there’s nothing wrong with that. To gossip, after all, is to be human.
Extracting the truth about the scandal is something else entirely. The information comes slowly in bits and pieces. How long will the investigation keep the public interest? Of all the excuses and alibis being offered for extremely bad behavior by the Obama administration, the most interesting one came from David Axlerod, onetime major adviser to President Obama:
Part of being president is that there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know, because the government is so vast.
As a subhead in the Wall Street Journal asked: “If the President doesn’t run the government, then who does?”
Anyone who has ever worked in a large organization knows that the enemy is bureaucracy. How many layers of management are the optimum and when does it all begin to break down? Few is better, and smaller organizations are better. The real problem is that there are few things that the government should be doing, and fewer that they can do well. I suppose it’s natural for someone who does not have great expertise in management to assume that things would be better if the government was just in charge. Obama will be the case study for that concept for years.
There are things that only the government can do. National Defense, a military, interstate highways, immigration, foreign trade, foreign affairs. But there are far more things the federal government should not be doing. If you go to Wikipedia and enter “List of U.S. Federal Agencies” and separately, enter “Independent Agencies of the U.S. Government” — the first is the vast number of agencies under the various cabinet positions, and the second is the agencies that are independent of any cabinet position. These are sobering lists. Is it possible to reduce the sway of government or has it taken on a life of its own, growing inexorably?
“Your New Health Care System” instantly makes one realize that ObamaCare is just another scandal. This arrogant overreach will not work, is a huge drag on the economy, and is destroying our health care system. Kathleen Sebelius’s attempt to get the health care providers she regulates to donate to the cause of rolling out ObamaCare is a separate and distinct scandal, aside from being against the law.
One of the greatest uses of scandal is to vividly demonstrate what new laws are needed and to create the political conditions to get them enacted. In the case of the IRS, what is needed seems to be a strong sense of ethics. Can you legislate ethics and forbid politicizing the work of an agency? They are a unionized agency. Can these people be fired? Or do the bad apples among government workers simply move to another department?
In a book titled The New, New Deal, author Michael Grunewald writes of the Energy Department’s Office of Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs. The Recovery Act allocated $5 billion to a three-year program to weatherize 600,000 low-income families’ homes through better windows, insulation, furnaces and air conditioners. The agency was informally known as “the Turkey Farm” for the number of sub-par civil servants sent there over the years when no other agency would take them. He told the story of an excellent manager’s attempts to make the department work. She never stood a chance, Grunwald said. “They knew that political appointees come and go, but civil servants are forever. They call themselves “WeBe’s,” as in “We be here, you be gone.”
So we need not only new laws to fix the underlying problems that produced the scandals, but also a serious effort to get rid of unnecessary and useless agencies. Can we retain the public interest long enough to put real pressure on Congress to make the changes? Can we produce enough activists demanding change?
Political scientist Alan Wolfe has suggested that Conservatives cannot resolve the tensions inherent in “managing government agencies whose missions —indeed, whose very existence —they believe to be illegitimate.” William Voegeli responded: “If conservatives govern badly because they stand outside the borders of modern government yelling Shrink, liberals should govern brilliantly, since their raison d’être is to vindicate the activist state’s right, duty and capacity to handle all the responsibilities entrusted to it over the past century, and then to assign it still more. ” So there you have the conundrum.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Immigration, Law, National Security, Taxes | Tags: A Common Thread, Not Trustworthy, The Obama Administration
Professor John Yoo has identified the common thread in the major Obama administration scandals:
Add up all the recent scandals and the message is clear: the Obama administration is showing that it cannot be trusted with the basic functions of government: law enforcement (surveillance of reporters), taxation (IRS scandals), and national security (Benghazi).
The next problem to demand attention is the Immigration system, which is clearly broken. We have no control of our borders. We have an estimated eleven million illegal aliens in the country. Our traditional ways of assimilating new immigrants is broken. They are not assimilating.
The Obama administration cannot be trusted with overseeing that function. The president has decided by executive order that he will not seek the deportation of young illegal immigrants. Actually it’s worse than that. He has ordered ICE and the border patrol to release any new illegals crossing the border, under the age of 31. ICE agents are suing Homeland Security, Secretary Napolitano and the President because they are ordered not to do what the law requires them to do.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Freedom, Politics, The Constitution | Tags: Donating to the Romney Campaign, Improper Use Of Government Power, The President's Enemies List
I have mentioned Idaho Conservative Frank VanderSloot several times, but he is undoubtedly neither a familiar name or a familiar face. He had the misfortune to be the very first entrant on President Obama’s reelection campaign’s “enemies list.” His sin? He donated to the Romney Campaign. He was called “disreputable” by the president, and it was suggested that he had a bad reputation. How absolutely outrageous.
In the United States of America you have a Constitutional right to dislike the President of the United States and say so. Mr. VanderSloot was investigated and audited by the IRS, his business was audited and investigated, his cattle ranch was investigated by the Labor Department in a classic example of using the power of the government to intimidate a citizen. This isn’t yet the Soviet Union, and here you have to lawyer up. Cost Mr. VanderSloot a reported $80,000 to escape the clutches of a government on attack.
Published on May 30, 2012 by the Heritage Foundation:
Frank VanderSloot grew up a poor kid in rural Idaho. His father made $300 a month. His clothes came from the Salvation Army. Yet through determination and hard work—and with the help of America’s free-enterprise system—today he’s the successful CEO of a global supplier of wellness products.
VanderSloot said his life changed forever on April 20. That’s when President Obama’s campaign created the first presidential “enemies list” since the Nixon era. Eight private citizens were singled out for their donations to Romney. They committed no crimes, sought no attention, and yet they became the subject of Obama’s scorn.
Filed under: Politics | Tags: Not Just What You File, ObamaCare Too, The Flat Tax
From> Reason TV Three good reasons to be scared as hell of the IRS.
This is the biggest one, for everyone, even if you are currently not paying any taxes will be affected by the performance, the ethics, the discretion and the efficiency of the IRS who will be in charge of monitoring your personal relationship with ObamaCare as well as your relationship with Uncle Sam.
You are asked to believe that the full might and power of the Internal Revenue Service was brought to bear on ordinary citizens who were expressing their political preferences, often for the first time, to keep them from having any influence in the upcoming election, and the president who was running for reelection and using every influence he could bring to bear on winning was completely unaware of the effort.
1. It’s always been a political weapon.
John F Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon all sicced the IRS on enemies and dissenters. And they were just following in the footsteps of Franklin Roosevelt, whose son said his father was “the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution.”
2. Its rulings are super-complicated and capricious.
The federal tax code is longer than Atlas Shrugged, Ulysses, and the Old Testament put together. It’s so complicated that even former IRS commissioners need help preparing their returns.
3. It’s Obamacare’s enforcement mechanism.
Starting next year, the IRS will be the cop patrolling the Affordable Care Act’s mandates, with the agency overseeing some 47 tax provisions related to Obamacare. You won’t just be reporting income anymore. You’ll be explaining when, where, and how you bought health care as well.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Politics, Statism, The United States | Tags: Canadian Journalist David Warren, President Barack Obama, The American Scandals
Do you know David Warren, Canadian journalist, now writing what he calls “Essays in Idleness“? If not, you should. His is a different voice, cranky and frank and always knowledgeable and interesting. Read the ‘About’ to get a sense of the man who is writing, and the first piece titled “Neil Reynolds” which is a fond obituary for two men who once hired him. It is a charming reminiscence.
The paragraph below is from an essay titled “The yairs chronicles,”which is his reaction to scandal central here in the adjacent nation. I wanted to call this bit to your attention, for I think it is worth your notice. If you should happen to wander around a bit and read the whole piece or others, you will only be the richer for it.
People might think a man like Barack Obama would know something about politics, since he has been bathing in them most of his life. He does in fact know something about them, but not much. This is because his acquirements were all in a specialized area of politics — that of getting oneself elected. … Once outside that specialization, poor Obama is at sea. He was never exposed to the craft of governing, only to the craft of getting power. His ideas of how things work, of what can & can’t be done by government agency, are absurd & laughable. To be fair he is, in this respect, a typical politician. They all studied the same specialty; not one in a hundred studied anything else.
But leave all this aside. We still assume that, since he has the power that goes with the office, Obama must have influence over what falls out. On democratic theory, he could be held accountable. He could be replaced by someone who knows what he is doing, or is more likely to do what the people want. His replacement would then be judged by the same criteria.
Oh, go on, read the whole thing. There are some utterly delicious bits there, even if you disagree.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Freedom, Intelligence, Law, Politics, Taxes, The Constitution | Tags: Accepting responsibility, Incompetence and Malfeasance, Standing Up To Be Counted
People in responsible positions have behaved very badly. Lies and excuses are flowing. I didn’t know. Nobody told me. I’m not responsible. It wasn’t illegal. It wasn’t my decision. I wasn’t aware. It’s irrelevant. I didn’t understand what was happening. Don’t blame me. How do you begin to get your mind around what it going on?
Cascading scandals. Today’s scandals are piling on top of earlier scandals that we don’t yet understand. Who is responsible? Who knew? Who is lying? Who is telling the truth? Who are the whistleblowers? Who is being sent out to take the fall to protect someone more important?
One begins to long for the days of historic Japan when the person in charge took responsibility, pronounced his shame and committed seppuku. It may seem barbaric now, but it brought a quick finality to the problem, tied it in a neat package so the remaining people could put their lives back together and get on.
Young graduates are entering society with big hopes and enormous debts. In Oklahoma a 1½-mile wide tornado has destroyed an entire town, flattened homes, and a death toll of twenty-five people almost sounds like a good thing, for it could have been so much worse. Cascading grief.
Senator Carl Levin is engaged in calling the Apple computer corporation to task before the Finance Committee for not paying more taxes even though they have carefully followed the laws made by the U.S. Congress. One reason that those new graduates are not finding employment to pay back their student loans is because the law of unintended consequences is making a burgeoning scandal out of ObamaCare, a law passed by a Democrat Congress without a single Republican vote.
The people holding committee meetings designed to get to the bottom of the scandal are also the people who have passed the laws, or passed the buck to some agency, to make the rules that are currently fouling everything up. We’re all human and fallible and make mistakes. But you don’t get off the proverbial hook by appearing before a committee and offering the passive “mistakes were made.”
Yes. A lot of mistakes have been made. People have been killed, unnecessarily. One quite innocent businessman has had to pay $80,000 worth of legal bills because someone in the IRS or in the Treasury Department or in the White House thought it was acceptable to go after someone’s entire financial dealings because they dared to donate to the president’s political rival before an upcoming election.
Those illegal and unethical attacks have had the desired effect. Big donors are afraid of the IRS. The head of Health and Human Services, left by a massive bill that nobody had read in charge of rolling it out, is finding out that the law of unintended consequences means that everyone is trying to avoid participating in a system that they believe to be unworkable and unaffordable. So she is out trying to bully those very entities which she will regulate into financing a program to make people like the unlikable. ObamaCare itself is a scandal that is ruining the economy.
With all those scandals, it’s no wonder that people do not yet understand the depth or the meaning of all these failures. Large numbers of the population have never heard of Benghazi, nor Kermit Gosnell, Steve Miller, nor Frank VanderSloot. Well, it’s no wonder. This may be the information age, but the information flow is not pared down and carefully formed so we get only that which is important, and if it were so, it would be someone else’s judgment as to what is important.
Twitter, designed by its limits to be confined to 140 characters (including spaces), would seem designed to be short, direct and immediate. Yet it is not turning out to be a conveyance of the most important information, but mostly an all-American repository of smart remarks.
You have to dig out the important information for yourselves. Reject the news about Beyoncé and the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy, and take notice of what is going on. Because what your Congress is doing will change your life. Take away your freedom. Even though they work for you, you can’t trust them. We have to remind them constantly of their responsibilities. There is a there there. It does matter.
A free society, if it is to remain free, requires citizens who take
the risk of standing up to be counted on the issues of the day.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Election 2012, Humor, Intelligence, Liberalism, Politics, Taxes | Tags: Face the Nation, Longtime Host Bob Schieffer, Presidential Aide Dan Pfieffer
President Barack O’Blameless sent out aide Dan Pfieffer to explain that the president was absolutely not to blame for anything whatsoever, and that the White House had only learned that there was an Internal Revenue Service when everyone else did, and they were all shocked, shocked, and they didn’t know anything about Benghazi either. What was needed now was a little cooperation from the Republicans who were trying to make partisan mountains out of partisan molehills. Republicans were just trying to go on fishing expeditions. Breach of public trust, false allegations, partisan swamp. Inexcusable, top-down investigation yadda, yadda.
Bob Schieffer was not having any of it. You sound exactly like the Nixon administration. Mr. Pfieffer, this is the executive branch, and the president is supposed to be in charge of it. The President is right out there when it’s something good, claiming credit, so how come he took three days to comment? Why are you here? Where’s the White House Chief of Staff? Serious problems, I shouldn’t make fun, but really! “Is this president out of touch?” Highly amusing, not convincing.