Power Corrupts: Benghazi, IRS scandal and Sebelius fundraising offer glimpse into Big Government
The United States was founded on the principle of limited government and separation of powers. While these are basic elements of our Republic, apparently forming a group to teach others about them can land you on an IRS watch list. These tenets exist for a very important reason: power corrupts. We must limit the power that public officials, elected and otherwise, have over citizens. In today’s culture such notions are beleaguered as quaint and outdated, as are the people who defend them. These abuse-of-power concerns are the impetus behind probes into White House Benghazi spin and the 2012 warnings that the IRS was harassing groups applying for nonprofit status to advocate for limited government. You could almost feel the eyes rolling on the Left and in the mainstream press as they dismissed these stories last year. Today, both are front page reminders of the dangers of Big Government.
What issues are limited-government advocates raising today that aren’t being taken seriously?
Secretary Sebelius Shakes down Health Care Sector: Lost among the stories late last week about Benghazi and the IRS was this gem from the Washington Post: Apparently exasperated that Congress refuses to shovel good money after bad to fund implementation of and enrollment into the new health care law, Secretary Sebelius has been fundraising for nonprofit groups from industries that she regulates. An HHS spokesman has confirmed that Sebelius asked health care executives to give money and support to Enroll America, a group that just happens to be run by a former White House staffer and is bent on pushing more Americans into the flawed Unaffordable Care Act. The New York Times is reporting that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will give $10 million and H&R Block is expected to pony up $500,000. Remember, Sebelius has already been reprimanded for violating the Hatch Act when she campaigned for President Obama on official time.
It’s outrageous for a sitting Cabinet official to fundraise for nonprofits that support her agency’s mission from the very sector that she regulates. This is the height of cronyism and one of the reasons that economic-freedom advocates were opposed to the health care law: the politicization of more than one-sixth of our economy will further embed Big Government distortions in our health care system. As this law moves forward, we will see many more instances like this. This is why we are suspicious of a government that is involved in so many aspects of our lives; the risks for cronyism are just too high.
EPA Nominee Gina McCarthy Refuses to Come Clean: President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to be the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency. In response to her nomination, Senate Republicans rightly began reviewing her credentials and time at the agency. The agency has been rocked by the story that outgoing-Administrator Lisa Jackson used a fake email account to conduct agency business so that her communications wouldn’t be subject to FOIA requests. McCarthy is enmeshed in this transparency scandal and refuses to come clean even now as she asks to be promoted. She refuses to turn over her emails to the fake Jackson account. McCarthy and the EPA have also refused to turn over the data behind health studies that EPA used to justify regulations with enormous economic costs. This from the administration that purports to be the most transparent in history and in February pledged to ensure that “research [is] made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community. Such results include … digital data.” Why the stonewalling on McCarthy then? Promising to do one thing and blatantly running afoul of your own standards is another reason why we have good reason to be skeptical of Big Government.
IRS Poised for Large Role in Unaffordable Care Act: It should be lost on no one that the very agency that is now embroiled in a scandal that calls into question its objectivity is taking a large role implementing the Unaffordable Care Act. This should give us all pause about the role this agency will play in the new law. The Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon has written extensively about the IRS’s clear violation of the plain words of the statute when it expanded eligibility for premium subsidies beyond state-created exchanges to federally-created ones as well. The same official (Douglas Shulman) that defended this unilateral rewrite of the law also flatly denied that there was any IRS targeting of groups for ideological reasons. The shock and outrage that’s being expressed this week over the harassing of Tea Party groups is only the beginning of what we could see as this agency gains control over our health information and continues to interpret the law’s tax provisions.
A system of self-governance requires limiting the power of those in control. The bigger the government the more powerful it becomes. The Benghazi and IRS scandals are only two poignant reminders of the fact that big, powerful government faces dangerous risks of corruption. As we look around at the decisions and actions being made by this administration, we see the flaws of Big Government ideology on display. These scandals will eventually pass, but this administration’s impacts will reverberate for generations.
When you wonder why economic freedom advocates believe in limited government, this is why.