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PRIEBUS: Government gone wild

No-fault scandals defy accountability

- - Friday, June 21, 2013

With each passing week comes more proof that President Obama's government is out of control. The past couple of months alone have produced a long list of scandals:

The Internal Revenue Service spent taxpayer dollars to target groups Mr. Obama considered his opponents. It also spent millions on lavish conferences, complete with luxury accommodations and expensive "Gilligan's Island"-themed training videos. The Department of Justice, meanwhile, was caught monitoring the communications of journalists. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been hitting up private companies (which she might regulate) to donate to an outside group promoting "Obamacare," creating a potentially serious conflict of interest. The Environmental Protection Agency turned a warehouse full of expensive, unused equipment into a "man cave." It was discovered that top government officials, such as Mrs. Sebelius and former EPA Director Lisa P. Jackson, used secret email accounts with fake names. At least one of those fake employees was given awards. According to a department investigator, Hillary Rodham Clinton's State Department tried to cover up an investigation into sex scandals involving high-level officials, including the U.S. ambassador to Belgium.

About a year ago, as he campaigned for re-election, Mr. Obama said, "As president of the United States, it's pretty clear to me that I'm responsible for folks who are working in the federal government and, you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you." As scandal after scandal unfolds, however, Mr. Obama acts as though nothing is his fault. The buck never stops with him. He insists it's not his fault — the government is too immense for him to know everything that's going on. He always finds someone else to blame.

That's more than just a lame excuse. It's evidence of the dangers of a large and bloated federal government. It can run wild, and when it's caught overstepping its proper bounds, no one is held to account because everyone can point a finger at someone else.

Sometimes, people wonder why Republicans advocate for limited government and government closest to the people. Sometimes, they ask why we want to streamline bureaucracy and put more power in the hands of voters for the sake of more accountability. The Obama administration's actions should help answer that question. The argument about the proper size and scope of government isn't something that has to happen in the abstract. The dangers of a growing, bloated federal bureaucracy are on full display.

The Obama administration's answer to these various scandals is that they will look into them. For example, the Department of Justice says it will investigate the monitoring of reporters by the Justice Department. In other words, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will investigate himself. Is the any doubt what verdict he'll reach?

In response to the IRS scandal, the president announced that the acting director of the IRS would resign. This also didn't hold anyone accountable: The director was scheduled to leave his post this month anyway — even before the scandal broke. Announcing his departure was nothing more than a distraction and a poor attempt to make him a scapegoat.

The scandals themselves are not the problem. They are a symptom of the larger problem. Government is too big, and it plays by its own rules. When government writes the rules, it is average citizens who will always lose.

In the coming months, when the full implementation of Obamacare draws near, the Internal Revenue Service will be in charge of enforcing the law's various mandates and rules. It has played politics with our taxes. Soon, it will have the power to play politics with our health care. If the events of the past few weeks have proven anything, it's that there will be no one to stop them.

You can't properly manage something as big and complex as what the federal government has become. The only way to prevent abuse of power is to change that which enables it: the very size of government. It's time to shrink it, simplify and modernize it. In the information age, the private sector has mastered the art of doing more with less. Technology and innovation are democratizing forces that have put more power in the hands of the people, eliminating the need for unaccountable, top-down power structures.

Government could use a dose of that thinking.

Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee.