Paul L. Caron

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 560

IRS Logo 2American Spectator:  The Lois Lerner Curve: How Anti-corruption Laws Cause Even More Corruption:

Corrupt countries, where the rule of law is weak and political pilfering is common, are poor countries. Entrepreneurs and investors cannot safely start or finance businesses in states that don’t respect property rights and honor contracts, or that use the levers of the government to go after political opponents. And it’s not as though America doesn’t have a corruption problem. On Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the U.S. comes in at number 19, behind most of the rest of the First World.

For anyone following the Lois Lerner scandal, that’s not surprising. What should be surprising, perhaps, are her defenders. Lerner tampered with IRS nonprofit applications, and revealed them only when an Inspector General was about to report on them. Then the cover-up began. The IRS put out a story that blamed the shenanigans on low-level Cincinnati employees. We were told that the IRS hadn’t picked on conservative any more than liberal groups. All lies. Then Lerner pled the Fifth, and her emails mysteriously disappeared. ...

[T]here’s another reason why the Lois Lerner scandal was to be expected: we have an excess, not an insufficiency, of laws. Now, we do need laws to police corruption of the obvious sort, such as bribery and extortion. But anti-corruption laws can cause more corruption than they prevent when they rely on complicated five-point standards of the kind loved by Anthony Kennedy and law school professors, with balanced and nuanced rules that seek to apply a scalpel to tasks better suited to an earthmover. We end up giving politicized bureaucrats a weapon to use against their opponents. It’s like handing a match to a giddy pyromaniac.

I call this the Lois Lerner Curve. With few laws policing corruption, there’s a lot of it. Then, as law enforcement increases, corruption declines, down to point zero on the curve. Thereafter, however, additional laws result in more corruption, because citizens and bureaucrats alike become lost in the complexity and enforcement is unevenly applied. ...


I think of this when I read about proposals for campaign finance reform. Sure, there’s room for cleaning up the pay-for-play politics of crony capitalism and the gerrymandering that makes most Congressional seats into fiefdoms for life. And there are well-meaning people, like Harvard’s Larry Lessig, who for honest motives want to limit campaign spending. Whatever their intentions, however, what they would do is take our election laws up the right-hand side of the Lois Lerner Curve, resulting in more corruption. Lurking behind them are Lois Lerner’s duplicitous partisans, the bare-knuckled street fighters who seek to end the scandal of Republican money in politics, and who would give us a country as free of corruption as Russia. They are scoundrels in the cause of honor, whores who clamor for morality, thieves in defense of property rights. 

Was that a little rough, just now? Then let me remind you about True the Vote, the conservative vote-monitoring organization led by Catherine Englebrecht. True the Vote trains volunteers to record and report on suspicious voter registrations. We’re not talking about the New Black Panthers with their baseball bats, but nevertheless Rep. Elijah Cummings opened up a congressional investigation into the group. His staffers wrote to Lois Lerner about it, and subsequently the IRS questioned its tax-exempt status. In in short order Engelbrecht’s business was visited by the FBI, ATF, and OSHA. She testified about this in February, and what’s interesting is how Democrats treated her. Cummings questioned her about her possible racist motives, and Gerry Connolly complained of McCarthyism and mocked her “paranoia” for thinking the audits might have been politically motivated.

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The existence of the Laffer Curve is not dependent on Kansas or California. The fact of the matter is that 100% tax rates yield the same revenue as 0%, which means a curve exists. No question some true believers seem to think that rate decreases always yield increased revenue, which is as absurd as the belief that rate increases always yield increased revenue. We have all too many Republicans who embrace the first absurdity, but criticism of them is not benefited by denying the existence of the Laffer Curve.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Nov 24, 2014 11:30:03 AM

Laffer Curve deniers? I would hope so. Only two words are necessary: (1) Kansas. (2) California. And keep your eyes open for Maryland, where the governor-elect is pledging to follow along in Gov. Brownback's Laffer Curve-inspired debacle. If Gov.-elect Hogan succeeds in implementing Brownback's tax cuts in Maryland (highly unlikely), should we not expect similar results?

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 21, 2014 7:18:57 AM

The Obama administration, which claimed to be the most transparent in human history, is filled with examples of Obama's staff circumventing the very transparency policies that Obama instituted. Everyone can see right through it except for the useful idiots that fall for the Grubering.

Posted by: wodun | Nov 20, 2014 1:25:25 PM

LOL, the Laffer Curve deniers are still out there. The existence of supply and demand curves is sure to be next.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Nov 20, 2014 9:15:58 AM

If I recall correctly, Catherine Engelbrecht discovered exactly zero voting fraud issues.

Posted by: Uxorius | Nov 20, 2014 8:54:39 AM

Lol. The "Lerner Curve" has about as much empirical support as the "Laffer Curve." Which is the say, NONE.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 20, 2014 6:31:23 AM