July 26, 2013

PEGGY NOONAN: Fortress IRS: Agency stonewalling could permanently harm Americans’ faith in government.

In all the day-to-day of the IRS scandals I don’t think it’s been fully noticed that the overall reputation of the agency has suffered a collapse, the kind from which it can take a generation to recover fully. In the long term this will prove damaging to the national morale—what happens to a great nation when its people come to lack even rudimentary confidence in the decisions made by the revenue-gathering arm of its federal government? It will also diminish the hope for faith in government, which whatever your politics is not a good thing. We need government, as we all know. Americans have a right to assume that while theirs may be deeply imperfect, it is not deeply corrupt. What harms trust in governmental institutions now will have reverberations in future administrations.

The scandals that have so damaged the agency took place in just the past few years, since the current administration began. And it is not Republicans on the Hill or conservatives in the press who have revealed the agency as badly managed, political in its actions, and really quite crazily run. That information, or at least the early outlines of it, came from the agency’s own inspector general.

But the point is that it was all so recent. It doesn’t take long to crater a reputation. . . . This White House is careless with the reputation of government. They are a campaigning organization, not a governing one.

I warned Obama — and, more significantly, the career folks at the IRS — about this way back in 2009. It appears that warning was insufficient.

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