It is surprising that the growing scandal in America about corrupt practices in its Inland Revenue Service has not attracted much attention in the UK and beyond – so far.
The story is incredible in a western democracy like the US: tax officials targeted people and organisations which were politically right-leaning with intrusive and intimidating questioning on, for example, what they said in their prayers and how their relatives voted in order, it is suspected, to delay payment of refunds, to cause the victims great stress and even to undermine the Republican movement. In some cases the fear invoked was so great small local political groups closed down and valid claims were withdrawn in order to end the harassment. It is claimed some religious groups were treated similarly. The questions being asked, by and among many, are, was it a political vendetta and who authorised it?
Coming at a time when another government department has been discovered to have secretly seized the phone records of the Associated Press news agency after a report it ran displeased the Administration, and when serious questions are being asked about the truth of the White House’s handling of the attack on the Benghazi consulate – possibly the most serious controversy of them all – President Obama’s leadership is under question and not just by Republicans: the American democratic system has been found to have been abused and her citizens have suffered at the hands of the government meant to protect them.
If Obama is discovered to have known, at least, what was being done by the IRS and the Justice Department and if he failed to protect his Libyan ambassador, the consequences for his presidency will be very serious; if he is found not to have known anything about these occurrences, all of which happened in his government, people will ask if his administration is out of his control. Either way, he is damaged.
I have said before that the desire for power corrodes, and when the powerful misuse what has been entrusted to them, particularly when money and politics is involved, those men and women always will be discovered. I am surprised that the officials at the heart of the scandals thought their misdemeanours could remain hidden, and it will be interesting to see what other facts emerge as the public inquiries continue. America is demanding answers and deserves some. Although the story is on the back pages in the UK, there are lessons from it for all governments, everywhere. Truth will out, always, in this Age of Light.