(In light of the recent scandals involving the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Obama administration’s Justice Department seizing phone records from journalists, New Mexico Watchdog asked former two-term governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson to offer his opinion on the controversies. Here’s Gov. Johnson’s response:)
By Gary Johnson │ Special to New Mexico Watchdog
For the past couple of weeks, the politicians in Washington, DC, have been engaged in their beloved sport of chasing “scandals.”
First, they were handed the gift of an Internal Revenue Service admission that certain non-profit organizations have been singled out for outrageous degrees of scrutiny and harassment.
And almost simultaneously, it came to light that the Department of Justice has been secretly spying on journalists — obtaining phone records, reading emails, and even tracking some of those journalists’ movements.
Congress is holding hearings as fast as they can schedule them, and the demands for “heads to roll” are growing every day.
Let me be clear: I don’t disagree that IRS harassment — targeted or otherwise — is scandalous. Nor do I disagree that it is, indeed, chilling that our government is spying on journalists. I certainly agree that heads should roll.
But … while the frenzy over these scandals is perhaps appropriate, we cannot let Congress and the politicians off the hook as they stumble over one another trying to get in front of the TV cameras.
The IRS did not appear out of nowhere. It is entirely a creation of decades of law-making and special interest politics that have produced a federal monster with almost 100,000 employees armed with 74,000 pages of rules and regulations. What do those regulations do? They enforce laws designed with remarkable elegance to reward, punish or manipulate almost every aspect of our lives and businesses.
It is not even a little shocking that a government given that much power and that many tools will abuse that power. If a parent hands a teenager the keys to a car with a case of beer in the back seat, should that parent be outraged when the kid gets a DUI or hurts himself or someone else?
Don’t forget. It was President Obama who stood before Congress in a State of the Union speech and decried the unfettered influence of non-profit advocacy groups. Now, he is flabbergasted that his 100,000 person IRS is making life difficult for some of those same groups.
The same goes for the “shocking” revelations that the Department of Justice is secretly obtaining citizens’ phone records, emails, and other personal information. Yes, when they do it to journalists, the stakes are raised a bit and legitimate concerns about the First Amendment come into play. But when we see members of Congress and Senators expressing their outrage, shouldn’t we be asking if they voted for the Patriot Act or any of the other laws that authorized DOJ to go forth and do those outrageous things?
In the frantic post 9/11 rush to “protect” us, both the Administration and Congress enacted laws and issued directives that, in a nutshell, said: “Do whatever you have to do, even if it means trampling on a few of the very rights we are supposed to be preserving.” Yes, at that painful juncture, a great many Americans were OK with that. But today, we are still living with those decisions — and those same politicians are somehow surprised that the behemoth they created is getting out of hand?
Perhaps Congress and all the outraged politicians should take a step back from the TV cameras and find a mirror. Raking bureaucrats over the coals when something goes awry is easy.
The hard part is facing the reality that those bureaucrats didn’t create the bloated government and the over-reaching authority that not only allows, but encourages, abuse.
If they truly need scapegoats, the mirror is the place to look.
The following comment from one Hazel Meade appeared at Marginal Revolution today re problems with the (Un)Affordable Care Act:
The banning of catastrophic-only plans infuriates me the most. Those are the only plans that are actually financially sensible for a healthy individual to purchase. Everything else on the market is a perverse by-product of the employer-based insurance system.
Worst case scenario with a catastrophic-only plan is you end up with $10,000 in debt. That’s a debt load many times smaller than what the Federal government thinks students should take out to get a college degree. We’ll let you borrow $100,000 to get a sociology degree but, we think that $10,000 is an unconscionable amount to pay for medical expenses? So unconscionable that we have to FORCE YOU to buy a plan with more extensive coverage?
Of course, we all know the real reason for this. it’s meant to force healthy young people to subsidize healthcare for older sicker people. Just force them to pay more for insurance than they ought to, and force them to buy more extensive coverage than is rational.
I’m a nice guy and I’m getting up in years (at least that’s what my wife tells me). Yes, Hazel’s birth control pills and treatment of tennis elbow may cost a bit more as part of her “insurance” premiums; but she should feel rewarded rather than infuriated! She’s helping fund my health care.
Aren’t you sure that the wise folks who passed and are implementing the (Un)Affordable Care Act understand the trade offs involved? They understand that younger folks like Hazel need a little nudge (okay, a shove) to provide for us nice old folks. And they truly understand that now we will get all the health care we need.
Oh, and a good many of us nice old folks forget to say this, thank you, Hazel.
I spoke to the Farmington-based Tri-City Tribune recently on the issue of LNG exports. That article can be found here.
The Wall Street Journal had this extremely favorable editorial this week on LNG exports but criticized the Obama Administration for “regulatory indecision” that is threatening to cost US producers of natural gas in the battle to supply the fuel to customers around the globe.
Also, columnist James K. Glassman has a column explaining how, while President Obama may have had a tough hand when he entered office, he has (or could have been) the beneficiary of some significant, positive developments in the energy sector that would have the US economy humming into recovery rather than sputtering along.
Lastly, yet another study on fracking (this one from Arkansas) has found no groundwater contamination resulting from the drilling technique.