George Will has today’s must-read column.
It is about Lois Lerner, the IRS agent who recently took the Fifth (sort of) before Congress rather than talking about the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups seeking a nonprofit tax exemption. Lerner had quite a history before joining the IRS: a former challenger of then-congressman Dick Durbin has come forward with astonishing claims of Federal Elections Commission harassment to get him out of the race. Lerner was the FEC lawyer involved in the case.
How many Lois Lerners are on our payroll? Will writes:
Lerner, it is prudent to assume, is one among thousands like her who infest the regulatory state. She is not just a bureaucratic bully and a slithering partisan. Now she also is a national security problem because she is contributing to a comprehensive distrust of government.
A certain amount of distrust of government is a very good thing. I’d likely disagree with Will about this. But he makes a brilliant point about loss of trust and the reaction to the recent revelation about NSA data collection:
The case for the National Security Agency’s gathering of metadata is: America is threatened not by a nation but by a network, dispersed and largely invisible until made visible by connecting dots. The network cannot help but leave, as we all do daily, a digital trail of cellphone, credit card and Internet uses. The dots are in such data; algorithms connect them. The technological gathering of 300 billion bits of data is less menacing than the gathering of 300 by bureaucrats. Mass gatherings by the executive branch twice receive judicial scrutiny, once concerning phone and Internet usages, another concerning the content of messages.
The case against the NSA is: Lois Lerner and others of her ilk.
Government requires trust. Government by progressives, however, demands such inordinate amounts of trust that the demand itself should provoke distrust. Progressivism can be distilled into two words: “Trust us.” The antecedent of the pronoun is: The wise, disinterested experts through whom the vast powers of the regulatory state’s executive branch will deliver progress for our own good, as the executive branch understands this, whether we understand it or not. Lois Lerner is the scowling face of this state, which has earned Americans’ distrust.
Bureaucrats such as Lerner appear not to give a hoot about us taxpayers. Jim Geraghty has a hilarious piece on how the IRS responds to every scandal that comes its way—it says it is taking the allegations “very seriously.” Which means that the concerns of citizens who foot the bills routinely are dismissed.