All of which suggests an important story hiding in plain site now that so many reporters are focused on the IRS. Why has it been allowed to be treated, as I wrote a few weeks ago, as “an inscrutable, unaccountable building rather than a group of public servants who work for us”?
And what would it take to fix it? Were the Watergate reforms—perhaps like other civil service safeguards or job security protections embedded in public employee union contracts—too much of a good thing, resulting in unaccountable bureaucrats?
Have these protections allowed our president and his appointees to ignore the basic management function of government because they have the excuse that they can’t control the bureaucrats? What, in fact, would it have taken to fire Lois Lerner—the hapless head of the IRS division overseeing tax exempt organizations—when it should have been obvious to any president or Treasury secretary well before she became famous for taking the Fifth that she was running an office that was not functioning?
Could a president whose style is more Chris Christie than law school professor have pushed over those civil service barriers the way we should want him to? And what will it now take to fire the idiots in Cincinnati who chose those “key words” to single out local conservative political groups?
It’s a story more important than just how to make the IRS work better, though that’s pretty important. It’s about how to restore confidence in government by making sure the people who serve us get the basic things right.