After the Scandals

Each of the various scandals swirling around Washington are important on their own terms, as well as a source of guilty pleasure to right-wing bastards such as ourselves, but they will also have important implications in the policy squabbles that will continue long after the accusatory headlines have faded.
The Internal Revenue Service’s outrageous targeting of conservative groups, for instance, will now figure in at least two ongoing debates. Advocates of the flat tax, the fair tax, and other simplified tax systems have always claimed their proposals would eliminate the possibility of such politicized IRS actions, among other advantages, and the argument is made stronger by the latest revelations. Critics of the Obamacare law were concerned from the outset about how it grows the size and scope of the IRS, which will be empowered to enforce the controversial individual mandate and its host of new taxes, and those critics will also become more persuasive in their attempts at repeal.
A Justice Department probe that sought a suspiciously broad range of phone records from the Associated Press will affect a broader debate about the media’s peculiar relationship with the government in much the same way. It might even affect the media’s previously adoring perception of the government, potentially having all sorts of ramifications on the next few years of politics, and it might even affect the public’s perception of the much-maligned conservative news sources. Past Justice Department scandals, ranging from the decision to let the New Black Panthers loose on voter intimidation charges and stonewalling the Fast and Furious fiasco, could also be seen in a newly harsh light.
Continuing revelations about the incompetence that led to the Benghazi tragedy and the dishonesty that followed it will similarly inform future discussions of foreign policy. Those who argue for a more frank resistance to radical Islamists, rather than the sort of cultural relativism that would appease them with the imprisonment of anyone who dares criticize their views, will surely be bolstered in their efforts.
The cumulative effect of all the scandals can only create a greater public skepticism about the government’s abilities and integrity, which in turn affects everything. Almost every political issue pits those who would expand the size, scope, and cost of government against those who would limit it to the traditional essential chores of national defense, issuing a sound currency, enforcing contracts, security the liberties of the people, and a few modest attempts at promoting the general welfare. The latter group might not prevail, but they will be energized and the scandals can only help their cause.

— Bud Norman

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