The Obama administration has faced a difficult week, facing scandals involving the Justice Department obtaining journalists phone records; the Internal Revenue Service targeting groups that appear politically conservative; and the Environmental Protection Agency allegedly favoring environmental groups over conservative ones on Freedom of Information Act Requests.
Now Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, and others with small government and anti-government philosophies are seizing on these perceived abuses as evidence of a federal bureaucracy out of control.
Speaking about the IRS scandal, Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) told reporters, “This whole episode reinforces and confirms the American people’s worst fears about big government run amok.”
But Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Florida) defended the IRS policy of examining groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications, asserting that conservative organizations were involved in inappropriate political spending, not liberal ones. “[The] Koch brothers have abused the system by setting up 501c3’s that are doing political activity. It doesn’t make any sense to look for something on the other side, because it’s not there.”
John Dickerson in Slate notes, “As Sen. Lamar Alexander has long argued, conservatives believe not only in limited government, but limitations to sweeping acts by government. Large comprehensive bills like the proposed immigration reform and the Obama health care plan lead to too many unintended consequences. Alexander quotes Irving Kristol, who called himself a 'policy skeptic.' His skepticism is rooted in what appears to have happened at the Justice Department, IRS, and EPA: Big sprawling government inevitably gets out of hand. Seventy-three percent of the public already says they distrust the government, according to a Pew Research Center poll.”
But taking on the liberal perspective, Dickerson says, “Liberals believe that there is a role for government to play in mediating market failures, and there are plenty of stories of areas where the safety net is thinning as a result of sequestration—from cancer treatments to Head Start to Meals-on-Wheels—where government should step in. But those stories get lost in the scandal coverage of an administration, making it look like conservatives fundamentally understand something that liberals do not.”