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House should expose Washington’s growing culture of intimidation

Sunday, May 19, 2013  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

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Far better to have an imperfect tax code fairly applied than a perfect tax code unfairly applied.

It is far more important that the entire enforcement and regulatory philosophy of the executive branch be radically remade than any particular law be amended.

The proponents of tax reform are attempting to seize on the parade of horribles marching out of the Obama IRS to build momentum for their particular tax reform cause.

Nothing could be more calculated to destroy both the effort to reform all or part of the code and the pressing need to restore the integrity of the IRS than to merge the two very different controversies.

Nothing would more quickly forfeit the crucial focus on the bullying culture of intimidation that has sprung up within the entire federal government than the attempt to use the people’s outrage to tilt at the windmill of tax reform in 2013 and 2014.

There is a lot wrong with the tax code. The code won’t be fixed in this Congress or even the next because President Obama and Harry Reid aren’t interested in that. At best some key improvements might be made, such as repeal of the medical device tax, but the idea of a vast overhaul is a pipe dream and doomed to fail.

The House does have it within its power, however, to thoroughly investigate the culture of intimidation that has developed within federal agencies far and wide and which is most obviously and widely felt by the public with regard to the IRS.

That culture is not limited to the IRS. Recall the Obama appointee Al Armendariz, who led a region of the Environmental Protection Agency until a speech he gave surfaced in which he extolled the virtues of “crucifying” members of the regulated community.

That was a shocker, but it was also quickly consigned to the memory hole, an unfortunate appointee who had gone rogue. Turns out Armendariz wasn’t an outlier. He was a model.

Now comes the IRS scandal hard on the heals of the Benghazi cover-up and side-by-side with the sweeping snooping by the Justice Department of the Associated Press, including the AP’s phones within the precincts of the House of Representatives.

In the recent past is the 9-0 rebuke of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hosanna-Tabor case, and the court’s smack down, again 9-0, of the EPA in the Sackett case.

Both were 2012 cases, and both concerned obvious abuses of federal power, which the Obama Justice Department took all the way to their embarrassing conclusions.

I spend most days counseling various companies on how to deal with this or that part of the federal government, and increasingly it isn’t about how to comply but how to persuade the distant but vast bureaucracy to even respond.

D.C. is becoming Versailles on the Potomac, a virtual palace where a few hundred thousand privileged grandees rule through their minions in the provinces. The result is a deep well of contempt which the governors have for the governed, and that attitude has seeped into every nook and cranny of the vast federal power.

The House needs a Select Committee on Benghazi, but it also needs its oversight committees for every agency to seek out the huge number of abuses within all of the agencies.

They must use this moment to bring the culture of intimidation to light and to force reform not just upon the IRS but across the entire vast array of agencies that have become threats to the lives of ordinary Americans. That is a project worth pursuing and a project which can get done.

Washington Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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