Wisdom is what you get when you make mistakes and learn from them; punishment is what you get when you make mistakes and don’t learn from them. Over the course of our history, America has made some pretty big mistakes and some of them are now competing for headlines in our news media.
Some of those mistakes are making headlines in the form of our current IRS scandal (a sandal which White House spokesman Beltway Jay Blarney claims doesn’t exist). Among the several mistakes that are embodied in this scandal is that of electing a man to the office of President who views the Constitution as an impediment rather than a document deserving respect. Being very forgiving I could say that electing him once was a mistake, but doing so twice means we get what we deserve. Our punishment has only just started, and I fear it will continue for quite some time. His term in office will eventually end however, and if we have learned from this mistake, perhaps we will then have the wisdom to elect someone who will repair the damage he has done.
The most egregious of these mistakes however, predated the current administration by several decades and will be a bit more difficult to put behind us. The mistake to which I refer is the establishment of the income tax. The first such tax was passed in 1862 to fund the Civil War, but was repealed ten years later. Another income tax was implemented in 1894, but the Supreme Court soon declared it unconstitutional. In 1913 the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, eliminating the Constitutional barrier to a direct tax on individuals without apportionment and opening the door to the monstrosity that now terrorizes American citizens with impunity.
Aside from the many fiscal reasons to not impose a tax on personal income, there are more important issues of freedom which should have precluded its adoption. In order to levy a tax on personal income, it is necessary for the federal government, unquestionably the most powerful man-made organization on the face of the earth, to collect information from private citizens regarding their personal finances; information which few of us are willing to share with our best friends or our next door neighbors. Who do you trust more, your best friend or the federal government?
Additionally, to make such a tax “fair” to lower income earners, even more personal financial details are required to be reported on an annual basis. Such requirements empower the federal government to collect and store an inordinate amount of very private information on virtually every citizen of this country.
Because the application of tax laws has such a profound effect on business and commerce, Congress found itself (quite innocently, I’m sure) in a position of great power and influence. Naturally, it became necessary for Washington to adjust what started as a relatively simple tax code in order to please businesses and their campaign contributors. As a result, the tax code has now grown so large and unwieldy that not even the IRS can understand it. As a result, it is nearly impossible for a taxpayer to be absolutely certain that they are in compliance with the law, which leaves us in an extremely vulnerable position. This is why most of us live in fear of that Internal Revenue Service letter in our mailboxes informing us that we are to be the subject of an IRS audit.
Enforcement of these tax laws has become so difficult that a massive agency, the Internal Revenue Service, has become necessary. In order to be sufficiently effective at collecting the taxes needed to run the country, its agents have been given wide latitude and an enormous amount of power not even afforded those law enforcement agencies that serve to protect our homes and lives from criminals.
What we are now left with is a massive tax code that no one understands, enforced by a massive collection agency that no one seems to control, financing a massive federal government controlled by politicians bent on advancing their own self-interests rather than those of the nation they are supposed to serve. To make matters worse, this same massive collection agency is now in charge of our medical care, and privy to our most private medical information.
Does anyone see a problem with this situation?
Given the current news coming out of Washington, it is undeniable that such an agency can be weaponized to be used against political opponents by whatever politician happens to be in charge and it is just as undeniable that we have politicians who are quite willing and able to do so.
Will we gain wisdom from these mistakes, or will we continue to be punished for them?
So far two IRS officials have announced their resignations, some obscure, low level employees face scapegoating by their superiors, and there has even been mention of jail time thrown about, but there has been no real discussion of substantive steps to prevent future abuses of power.
Certainly at some point some member of Congress will offer up legislation that will bring about increased oversight of the agency, and a huge cost to taxpayers of course; but that legislation might make abuses of power a bit more difficult, it will almost certainly do nothing to prevent them. As long as we have a massive and rapidly growing federal government, empowered with the ability to monitor and control the minutest details of our lives, granted with virtually unlimited powers of enforcement, and controlled by career politicians with career advancement and their own self-interests at heart, this type of abuse will be not only possible but inevitable.
To stop this abuse of power, the power must be limited. Since it is absolutely true that knowledge is power, we must limit the knowledge that the federal government has regarding our private lives, medical records, and financial information. This will require some pretty big changes in the law, and in the way our nation operates. Obviously Obamacare must be fully repealed, and I would suggest replacing it with the healthcare reform plan I outlined quite some time ago. Additionally, it is time to totally eliminate the IRS by repealing the income tax and replacing it with the FairTax.
These are big steps, but we have big problems and they won’t go away without bold action. We have complained about big government and the IRS long enough, it is time to do something about it.