Lie to the federal government and you'd better get you affairs in order.
Ask Martha Stewart.
But if the government lies to you, oh well.
The protected status of government lies is being showcased by the liars in the Internal Revenue Service.
It is bad enough they want you to believe targeting specific groups wasn't politically motivated just because some high ranking party official didn't sic the IRS henchmen on the tea party, conservative groups and anyone with wording in their mission statements that challenges big government.
But now they can lie with impunity and keep their jobs.
Such is the case with IRS official Lois Lerner.
For more than a week the white lie that she was a no-nonsense civil servant who inadvertently broke the IRS targeting scandal because she didn't have it in her to lie when queried on the subject played well in Peoria. Powerless Americans -- those who don't have influence in the halls of Congress and simply try to make an honest living -- took some comfort that rank-and-file career civil servants in the IRS were honest. That was despite the political shenanigans of some in using the tax code to attack those who disagree with the powers that be.
Now we find out it was a planted question and scripted response for the IRS to try and reduce the heat from the pending release of the investigation report.
Now if you intentionally mislead the IRS like the IRS misled the public what do you think would happen?
The full force of the Department of Treasury would come down on you. The IRS would look under every rock, check every financial transaction, hit your for any back taxes and fines, and push relentlessly for hard time in prison.
But have a career IRS official mislead the public and they get to keep their job.
Remember, if the federal government can't get you for the actual crime you're accused of, they will prosecute you for lying.
In other words, you can't lie to the government without consequences but the federal government can lie to you with impunity.
Joseph Stalin would be proud.
And while much ado is being made of the targeting of specific groups, what is even more chilling is what the IRS was asking.
Targeting political enemies using the IRS is nothing new. There are well-documented cases from the FDR era, Kennedy years and the Nixon administration.
But what makes today's targeting scandal even more chilling is how the IRS went off the reservation. In the past, those welding the IRS as a political weapon looked for discrepancies in financial reporting connected with taxes owed. The tea party/conservative targeting took a clear Orwellian bent.
The IRS wanted to know details about reading material of political groups.
The most intrusive enforcement arm of the federal government - the IRS - is turning into thought police to go after people who challenge the status quo.
For that reason it would be much more comforting if we ultimately found out that someone in the Obama White House had ordered the targeting.
If not it means a massive government agency that apparently answers to no one took it upon themselves to try and chill political speech.
Making it all the more ironic is the very actions of the IRS validate a main tea party talking point that the federal government has gotten too big and is out of control.
Instead of worrying about the military-industrial complex as we have for the past 53 years after Dwight Eisenhower's parting warning shot, maybe we should fret about the big government-big media complex.
The vilification of groups perceived to be on the left or right of mainstream political views in this country when they question anything from civil rights to government overplay seems to be a point where big government and big media partner quite well.
Just like with the military-industrial complex, any challenge to the status quo threatens their hold on the national agenda.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.