“It is just inherently corrupt,” Rick Santorum told a live audience this weekend in Charleston, South Carolina this weekend.  The former Senator and GOP presidential candidate said that the latest scandal shows the danger of handing so much power over the lives of Americans to the federal government, and that repealing the Sixteenth Amendment was the only real solution to unwinding that intrusive power.

Rick Santorum became the latest Republican to call for the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment in light of the ongoing IRS controversy. “We have to get rid of this income tax — that is the source of the problem — and do something to replace it,” the former Pennsylvania senator said on Fox News over the weekend.

Santorum called the agency “hopeless” and “inherently corrupt” and warned that its role in Obamacare’s implementation will make matters even worse. “It’s hopeless because we’ve given enormous power to the government over every single person in America,” he said.

Santorum has been trying to raise his profile recently on economic issues.  On Saturday, he authored an essay at USA Today pushing the Republican Party to focus more on middle-class policies rather than corporate interests, saying that the disconnect cost them the election in 2012:

2012 exit polling tells us that 21% of voters thought that the most important Presidential quality was that the candidate “cares about people like me” – and President Obama won these voters 81 to 18. This fact rekindled the discussion over the increasing “empathy gap.”

The “gap” should come as no surprise. Republican rhetoric focuses on business creators without making the connection to the average American. Furthermore, the establishment Republicans policies have cooperated with Democrats to use the government to reward big businesses and big banks at the expense of these job creators. But Republicans often don’t even talk about those who work in those businesses: the cooks, technicians, welders, truck drivers, administrative assistants, middle managers, laborers, and all the other good and honorable jobs that are the foundations of these companies. These employees also make the American economy run, and there are a lot more of them than employers.

We need to talk with them – and to them. Plus our policies must address their interests – and I don’t mean just economic interests. True empathy is conveyed by message, messenger, and action. …

In the future, Republicans must have the message and the policies that truly level the playing field, get government out of picking winners and losers, and lift up both owners and workers. We need to look to leaders in our party to emerge and solidify around this message.

Getting rid of the IRS and the current tax code would be one big step in that direction.  The tax code (for both personal and corporate income) is where lobbyists win favorable treatment, and where politicians attempt to tilt playing fields for ideological or political gain.  A flat tax would fix that problem, but only if it stayed flat.  I’d prefer that system if only to prevent the depressive impact a national sales tax or VAT [see update] would have on purchasing.  Unfortunately, it would be impossible to trust Congress to keep income tax flat without a constitutional amendment, and that would be less popular than full repeal, I suspect — especially since it would keep the IRS in business, if effectively emasculated.

Santorum’s on the right path here, as are Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and other more popular Republicans. Bobby Jindal has been hitting the same points on economic policy, if not on the IRS yet. The IRS abuses give a rare and clear example of just how the government can abuse its power to create political cover for an entrenched governing class, and that gives Republicans a chance to make a case for smaller government and working-class focused economic policies. Let’s hope they take the opportunity.

Update: I erred in using VAT, national sales tax, and Fair Tax interchangeably. There are differences between all three, as well as many similarities.  I was thinking more of the Fair Tax as the alternative.