Politics & Policy

This Is Your Brain on Big Government

The dangers of America’s bloated, bullying state are inescapable.

If Obama’s Rose Parade of scandals gives you a headache, here’s why: This is your brain on Big Government.

The deteriorating developments on Benghazi, the IRS, the Justice Department’s Associated Press probe, health secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s Obamacare shakedown, and the “Affordable” Care Act’s unaffordability all offer a vivid, daily tutorial on the costs and pitfalls of unlimited government. The dangers of America’s bloated, bullying state are inescapable.

‐Big Government often hammers its foes.#ad#

As horrified Americans have learned, the IRS targeted at least 471 conservative organizations for tough treatment. As the IRS’s inspector general explained, these included self-identified “Tea Party” and “patriot” groups and those “focused on government spending, government debt, taxes, and education on ways to ‘make America a better place to live.’” The IRS reportedly approved zero tea-party tax-exemption applications between February 2010 and May 2012. Across 27 months of malign neglect, some applicants abandoned their ambitions.

Meanwhile, the IRS inappropriately asked these groups for donors’ lists, their public-policy opinions, and the names of board members’ relatives who might seek public office.

A chilling Politico story explains that a “special unit” at the IRS has scrutinized Jewish institutions. It asked one: “Describe your organization’s religious belief system towards the land of Israel.” A pro-Israel group called Z Street complains that the IRS inquired whether its activities “contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

‐Big Government usually helps its friends.

“As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with obviously liberal names were approved in as little as nine months,” USA Today reported Tuesday. These included Bus for Progress and Progress Florida.

According to the Daily Caller’s Charles C. Johnson, the Barack H. Obama Foundation — directed by Abongo Malik Obama, the president’s half-brother and best man at his wedding — filed IRS Form 990s for 2008 through 2010 in May 2011. It then scored 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status on June 26, 2011, retroactive to April 30, 2008. The reputedly Virginia-based foundation won this valuable designation without registering with state authorities. Evidently, IRS officials did not care that, as the Daily Caller stated, Abongo Obama “was accused of being a wife beater and seducing the newest of his twelve wives while she was a 17-year-old school girl.”

IRS also sent ProPublica, a liberal news organization, the confidential, unapproved nonprofit applications of nine conservative groups. ProPublica redacted financial information and then published six of these forms.

A pro-traditional-matrimony group called the National Organization for Marriage claims that the IRS gave copies of its tax documents to the pro-gay-marriage Human Rights Campaign. NOM says that HRC used those leaked documents to slam NOM and a donor identified therein: Mitt Romney.

IRS wants to hire 1,954 new agents to enforce 47 different provisions of Obamacare. Combine these political leaks with the electronic medical records that doctors and insurers soon must render unto Obama’s bureaucrats. Imagine an exposé on conservative activists who use Viagra. Why not out a rising GOP star whose psychotherapist treats her exotic sex fantasies? Far-fetched? Not after this week. Indeed, 15 IRS agents are being sued in California court for allegedly swiping without a search warrant the medical records of some 10 million Americans in March 2011.#page#

“It is unprecedented in recent history, the amount of responsibility the IRS is being given in an area that most people don’t think of as an IRS function,” Treasury inspector general J. Russell George told the House Appropriations Committee last March 5. “This is going to lead to problems, sir.”

[UPDATE: In a story that morphs more quickly than one can keep up with it, this morning brings the staggering news that Sarah Hall Ingram, the manager of the IRS office that targeted these center-right organizations, was promoted to run the IRS division that is implementing Obamacare. It is beyond outrageous that this secret policewoman — whose actions were at least execrable, if not illegal — would get within three time zones of any American’s health-care data. She should be sacked before lunch and seriously considered for prosecution.] 

‐Big Government overreaches.

On national-security grounds, the Justice Department justifies snatching two months of phone records associated with the Associated Press. This includes 20 office, home, and cell numbers. Justice appears to be investigating a leak related to al-Qaeda’s attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound airplane in 2012. However, Justice is using a paint roller where a fine brush might do. It evidently ran roughshod over its own guidelines, which require a more limited search, and only after requesting such records.#ad#

“The normal course of business is very narrow and very tailored to a particular individual’s phone records,” former attorney general John Ashcroft’s then-spokesman Mark Corallo told Fox News. “The idea that they would do two months — grab everything — in several bureaus is truly stunning and disgraceful.” Former attorney general Michael Mukasey worries that Justice might have been “looking more broadly to discourage people to talk to reporters.”

Justice’s extraordinary steps to plug national-security leaks would be more credible had the Obama administration not gushed like a fire hydrant after Seal Team Six killed Osama bin Laden. The CIA and Pentagon gave Academy Award–winning director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal access to classified materials and facilities as they prepared to shoot Zero Dark Thirty, the Oscar-nominated film about the bin Laden raid.

Administration blabbing exposed the name of a Pakistani doctor who helped U.S. intelligence gather DNA evidence that verified bin Laden’s presence in the compound where he was shot. Having been unveiled by Washington, that physician now is spending 33 years in a Pakistani prison. While addressing the March 22, 2009, Gridiron Dinner, joking Joe Biden let slip the classified location of the vice-presidential “undisclosed location.” Instead of gathering phone records, perhaps Justice officials should deploy duct tape across the mouths of indiscreet Obama staffers.

‐Big Government drives costs skyward.

Obama’s laughably titled Affordable Care Act will trigger individual health-insurance “premium increases of nearly 100 percent on average, with potential highs eclipsing 400 percent,” the House Energy and Commerce Committee reports. “Meanwhile, small businesses can expect average premium increases in the small group market of up to 50 percent, with potential highs over 100 percent.”

To make matters worse, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius improperly and perhaps illegally is asking health insurers and other companies she regulates to contribute money to private nonprofits that will enroll uninsured Americans in Obamacare.

It would be mighty sad if something happened to that pretty, little HMO of yours. So, how much are ya gonna donate?

‐Big Government lies through its teeth.

Once public servants conclude that the public serves them, they soon hold the people in contempt. At that point, why bother to tell the people the truth?

Thus, Obama stood before the White House press corps on May 13 and declared about Benghazi: “The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism.” However, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted that Obama broadly denounced “terror” just after Benghazi, but refused to call that attack an act of terrorism. Then, over the next two weeks — on 60 Minutes, Univision, The View, Late Show with David Letterman, and before the United Nations — Obama cited that now clearly irrelevant anti-Muslim video as well as his uncertainty in light of ongoing investigations. But he did not pin Benghazi on an act of terrorism.

This earned Obama four out of four Pinocchios, the Washington Post’s distinction for big-time lies.

“What we see emerging here is a pattern, a culture, a culture of intimidation, of hardball politics that we saw both on the campaign trail and now through the apparatus of government,” Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) told the Senate Wednesday. “These are the tactics of the Third World.”

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News Contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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