Federal Scandals Should Increase Our Skepticism of the Gang of Eight

by Fred Bauer

Proponents of “comprehensive immigration reform” are professing some giddiness over the scandalmania of the past few weeks. The Daily Beast quotes Frank Sharry, a dogmatic supporter of “reform,” as saying the following: ”We hope there’s a fourth scandal . . . While all of this goes on, we’re just plugging along on this under the radar.”

Sharry’s statement reflects the concerns of some Gang of Eight skeptics, who worry that the recent media spotlight on scandals will end up aiding the passage of the Gang of Eight bill. The scandal coverage sucks up oxygen in the media, potentially limiting the ability of grassroots opponents of the Gang’s proposal to mobilize popular sentiment. These scandals also give prominent supporters of immigration “reform” cover with the conservative base. Senator Rubio can attack the administration over various scandals, ingratiating himself with the grassroots and compensating for his willingness to work with administration allies on immigration. There’s a reason why Senator Rubio’s chief of staff ended his vacation from Twitter (and unprotected his tweets) a couple weeks ago in order to post tweet after tweet about the scandals du jour.

However, the scandals of the present moment are not distinct from immigration reform. As Mark Krikorian noted the other day, the Gang of Eight bill as it currently stands is an endorsement of centralized bureaucratic powers. As the IRS and other scandals raise some concerns about centralized government agencies, the bill’s various provisions – from its guest-worker plan to its “trust us” approach to enforcement – are a vote of great confidence in big bureaucracy.

Furthermore, if it is true that these current scandals represent significant overreach by the executive or incompetence on his watch, it is rather hard to see the case for rewarding that executive with perhaps the top item on his legislative wish-list. Washington kabuki aside, the Obama administration would very likely be ecstatic if the current incarnation of the Gang of Eight’s bill became law. The bill achieves two key progressive goals: It empowers centralized authority figures and it increases the ability of federal bureaucrats to manage the U.S.’s labor market.

The coverage of scandals does take up media space, but skeptics of the Gang of Eight bill might do well to keep the public’s eye on the bigger implications of these scandals. ”No man is an island,” the 17th-century British poet John Donne once wrote. Well, no political event is an island, either: Each scandal ties into broader questions of public concern. Our present scandals seem precisely to invoke questions about public trust in executive discretion, which would be radically expanded by the proposed immigration bill.

— Fred Bauer is a writer from New England. He blogs at A Certain Enthusiasm, and his work has been featured in numerous publications.

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