What can we learn from allegations against a half-dozen supervisors in the General Services Administration (GSA) about wasting - and perhaps stealing - taxpayer dollars on foolishness in Las Vegas and against a dozen Secret Service agents about dangerously procuring prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, while there to prepare for a visit by the president?
If the allegations are true - and they seem to be - the behavior of those federal workers reflects a view hardly consistent with the ideas of limited government and public trust. The United States is the only nation in history founded on the principle that people voluntarily give up some personal freedom in order to form a central government of limited powers and for limited purposes. Those purposes, according to the Constitution, consist primarily of the maintenance of personal freedom, natural rights and property rights, civil liberties and commercial liberties.
In all other nations where there is some freedom, government power begrudgingly permits limited freedoms. In the United States, personal freedom has permitted the government to have limited powers.
Those powers were intended to be used in a stingy way, to maximize freedom and minimize government. There is no other intellectually honest reading of the Constitution in the era of its creation than this. Even the big-government folks present at the nation’s creation, such as John Adams, who one day would prosecute people for speech critical of him, and Alexander Hamilton, who began our nefarious infatuation with government debt, agreed that the federal government was limited to the powers articulated in and delegated to it by the Constitution and to those tools necessary and proper to executing the delegated powers.
But 230 years later, when governmental power is used for personal gain that obviously is nowhere countenanced in the Constitution, that use perverts the structure that established the government. It also tells us that those in government who have done this do not comport themselves as if they work for us. Rather, they use the power we gave them and the taxes they took from us for silly and tawdry behavior that in no way protects our freedom.
Unfortunately for the national discourse, politicians will seek to make political gains over this. These GSA and Secret Service scandals were not caused by one political party. They were caused by the big-government attitude that those in government can do as they please with the public trust and the public purse so long as they can get away with it.
The same Congress that professes outrage over the alleged GSA and Secret Service escapades does whatever it can get away with every day. It writes whatever laws it wants; it regulates whatever behavior it chooses; it taxes whatever events it thinks will keep it in power. And it does so with utter disregard to whether its work is permitted by the Constitution.
The president bombs whatever countries he wants and spies on whatever Americans he chooses and kills whatever persons he fears and lends tax dollars to whatever friends he wishes, as if the Constitution didn’t exist. And the courts look the other way.
Congressional hearings into these latest scandals will only make the scandals worse as members of the holier-than-thou political class try to grandstand for network cameras. While they do, they will be wasting more taxpayer dollars. They should know that the witnesses they have summoned will be properly advised not to testify until either they are charged and the charges have been resolved, they have immunity, or they know they are in the clear. In recent memory, only former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has testified and denied allegations against him before they have been filed, and he may be indicted soon not for what he did in private, but for what he said about it in public.
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, the government is wasting even more of our tax dollars by prosecuting the most intimidating baseball pitcher in a generation for lying to a congressional committee consisting, in part, of professional liars; all this about the contents of his blood and urine.
Does the government even realize how wasteful and lawless it is?
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst on the Fox News Channel. He is author of “It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom” (Thomas Nelson, 2011).