Spread the news: tax man has got a new job! Well, sort of. You’ll still see him every April for your 1040, but now he’ll also be handling your healthcare. Under Obamacare, the IRS will have 47 new powers and duties requiring thousands of new employees and billions of more dollars. IRS agents will also be accessing a lot of personal information about you in the new Federal Data Services Hub, “the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic,” as USA Today reports.
The potential for abuse is staggering.
We have seen the corruption of the IRS through political targeting of tea party groups, as well as the subsequent lies and cover-ups, and the lavish spending on entertainment and conferences—and yet, an utter lack of accountability.
So what happens to the IRS when it abuses its power? The simple answer: not much. Sure, some IRS employees have been put on administrative leave, a.k.a. paid vacation. Others have been rewarded. For example, Sarah Hall Ingram, the former head of the office that targeted political groups, has been put in charge of administering Obamacare’s many new taxes and penalties.
Civil service rules try to protect federal bureaucrats from undue political influence. They also tend to shield those bureaucrats from accountability. It is extremely difficult to fire a federal employee, even if the evidence against him is strong. “Bad actors” are merely placed on “administrative leave.” While political appointees can be fired immediately, a federal employee can appeal to the Merit Protections System Board (MPSB). The initial appeal process takes an average of 93 days to process, and if the board rules against the employee, he can appeal again to the national board, which takes an average of 245 days. That equates to almost three years.
At the beginning of his first term, Obama announced: “A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” Corruption, incompetence, and the violation of individual rights are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. If the President believes in accountability and transparency, he should deal firmly with the bureaucracy, especially the political appointees. Those who have acted illegally or unethically should be fired. An unwillingness to hold political appointees accountable invites abuse. It also raises questions of how high the corruption really goes. For example, is Sarah Hall Ingram being rewarded for following orders from somewhere higher up the chain?
Think about how the IRS could abuse your healthcare. You don’t drink the Kool-Aid of big government? Well maybe we’ll just delay your application for healthcare subsidies, or drown your company in paperwork. Maybe we’ll interpret the rules so you’re sure to get taxed.
Lord Acton famously declared, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Why would we reward the nation’s most feared and hated agency—an agency that has violated the rule of law—by giving it the power to control our healthcare? It’s a recipe for abuse.