This column from John Kass deserves a Pulitzer

The writer who (I think) coined the term "Chicago Way" to describe the tactics of Barack Obama and his aides has written what should be an award winning column on the significance of the IRS scandal.

John Kass has been reporting on the Chicago political machine for many years and has been familiar with the tactics employed by the Machine to destroy those who cross it.

The Internal Revenue Service scandal now devouring the Obama administration -- the outrageous use of the federal taxing authority to target tea party and other conservatives -- certainly makes for meaty partisan politics.

But this scandal is about more than partisanship. It's bigger than whether the Republicans win or the Democrats lose.

It's even bigger than President Barack Obama. Yes, bigger than Obama.

It is opening American eyes to the fundamental relationship between free people and those who govern them. This one is about the Republic and whether we can keep it.

And it started me thinking of years ago, of my father and my uncle in Chicago and how government muscle really works.

Kass's father and uncle owned a small supermarket on the south side of the city. His immigrant family was a diverse lot, politically speaking, and every Sunday they would gather to talk about and debate politics.

Kass once asked the assembled group of small businessmen and tradesmen why they didn't get involved in politics? The response he eventually got describes the real power of government to intimidate and destroy:

"Are you in your good senses?" said my father. "We have lives here. We have businesses. If we get involved in politics, they will ruin us."

And no one, not the Roosevelt Democrats or the Reagan Republicans, disagreed. The socialists, the communists, the royalists, everyone nodded their heads.

This was Chicago. And for a business owner to get involved meant one thing: It would cost you money and somebody from government could destroy you.

The health inspectors would come, and the revenue department, the building inspectors, the fire inspectors, on and on. The city code books aren't thick because politicians like to write new laws and regulations. The codes are thick because when government swings them at a citizen, they hurt.

And who swings the codes and regulations at those who'd open their mouths? A government worker. That government worker owes his or her job to the political boss. And that boss has a boss.

The worker doesn't have to be told. The worker wants a promotion. If an irritant rises, it is erased. The hack gets a promotion. This is government.

So everybody kept their mouths shut, and Chicago was hailed by national political reporters as the city that works.

I didn't understand it all back then, but I understand it now. Once there were old bosses. Now there are new bosses. And shopkeepers still keep their mouths shut. Tavern owners still keep their mouths shut.

Even billionaires keep their mouths shut.

One hard-working billionaire whose children own the Chicago Cubs dared to open his mouth. Joe Ricketts considered funding a political group critical of Obama before last year's campaign. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, made it clear that if the Cubs wanted City Hall's approval to refurbish decrepit Wrigley Field, Ricketts better back off.

It happened. He backed off. It was sickening. But it was and is Chicago.

And now -- with the IRS used as political muscle and the Obama administration keeping that secret until after the president was elected -- America understands it too.

Kass and many others warned back in 2008 of exactly this sort of thing happening if Obama was elected. The IRS scandal is the Chicago Way on steroids and we may only be scratching the surface of the way that government works under Obama.

Kass mentioned Benjamin Franklin's famous answer to the question following the Constitutional Convention whether we had a monarchy or a republic. "A republic - if you can keep it."

Future generations may be asking the same question and wondering why those who live in our time didn't heed the answer.