So Marshall and Klein, who have rarely failed to insist that an activist bureaucracy betters America, simultaneously acknowledged that federal employees can be malevolent and unaccountable. Why have liberal pundits suddenly come to this conclusion? This question brings us to the political climate that gave rise to the IRS abuses now belatedly under scrutiny.

The initial defense of the IRS’s conduct was that agents were just trying to tamp down the supposedly pernicious influence of money in politics—a leitmotif of the liberal punditry for years. In practice, however, the fear of seeing tax-exempt organizations engage in electioneering was highly selective. The IRS gave the rubber-glove treatment to hundreds of regional Tea Party groups with maybe a dozen members each. Meanwhile, groups like, say, the political action committee of the National Treasury Employees Union—which represents IRS employees, and is, like all unions, a nonprofit entity allegedly overseen by the IRS—spent $571,812 last year in political donations and gave 96 percent of that to Democrats. And though the NTEU isn’t affiliated with the AFL-CIO, all of the other federal employee unions are. The AFL-CIO spends tens of millions in every election cycle with almost no scrutiny.

In return for generous campaign donations from federal employees—donations you pay for out of taxes collected by, yes, the IRS—federal workers on average are now paid $133,000 a year in salary and benefits, and it’s nearly impossible for them to be fired. The political influence of government unions is undeniable.