The power to tax involves the power to destroy.—Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, McCullough vs. Maryland, 1819.
In the act of appropriating taxes there is perhaps no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice.—James Madison, Federalist No. 10
Of the various scandals currently besieging The White House, there is no doubt that the most egregious as well as the most damaging politically for President Obama is the IRS intimidation of conservative non-profit organizations. As important as they are in seeking the truth, not many citizens have the patience for the explanations involved in the Benghazi cover-up, and the Associated Press/James Rosen case is generally regarded by the person in the street as a media event. But the IRS viscerally resonates with people, as all taxing authorities have since our revolution. As the Marshall and Madison quotes indicate, this is the ultimate tyranny in a free society. And as a political issue, it has “legs” because it is bi-partisan. It will also greatly re-energize the Tea Party in a way that will carry through the mid-term elections in 2014.
However, I am taking the Jonah Goldberg line on this. I believe that it is important to use this issue primarily as a platform to attack the corruption of tax policy generally and only secondarily to go after individuals who might be culpable in the implementation of partisan intimidation of certain groups. Certainly, hearings should be held, investigations should be conducted, and criminal referrals should be pursued, but the primary issue here is that the taxing power of the administrative state corrupts and that overreaching government as manifest in the income tax code is the culprit that needs to be the focus of dissent. This is where efforts should be directed as a matter of principle and it will also have the most benefit politically.