We may never know whether the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups was ordered by political appointees or was merely the initiative of front-line bureaucrats in Ohio—or whether it was something in between, like functionaries taking cues and acting out the implicit wishes of their superiors—but we should not underplay the seemingly-isolated acts of bureaucrats.
Most Americans don’t realize that a significant majority of federal government rank-and-file employees, especially those working inside the Beltway, are liberals, many of whom no doubt hold the Tea Party in the same contempt as elected Democrats do. These latest shenanigans by over-empowered and unaccountable agents of the Leviathan should scare all Americans, for we don’t know how often these front-line employees abuse their power to further their own ideology.
A scandal from the top usually involves a paper trail (try as the media may to ignore it), but it’s much harder to scrutinize the motives of rogue field office personnel. Even worse than a high-level political drive, this incident reflects the rot of the federal bureaucracy that is inevitable given the power that we have given to the government.