Slap on the wrist hurts us all

Many Americans probably believe the First Amendment is our ironclad guarantee of freedom of speech. Apparently, however, the Bill of Rights is not sufficient protection – or at least is not viewed that way by most members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

By an overwhelming voice vote, the House has approved a bill specifically forbidding the Internal Revenue Service from punishing people who exercise their right to freedom of speech. The measure was a reaction to revelations three years ago that an IRS unit harassed some conservative political groups.

Lawmakers understand the First Amendment stands on its own as a bar to such political targeting, of course. The bill approved last week probably was more an expression of frustration than anything else.

Americans, not just our elected representatives, ought to be upset.

President Barack Obama’s Justice Department investigated the scandal. No one was prosecuted.

Lois Lerner, who headed the office in question, was allowed to retire with a full pension. So was another high-ranking IRS official. The agency’s head was forced to resign.

But to our knowledge, no one was ever fired for a clear violation of the First Amendment.

So that’s it, apparently: We’re all supposed to believe a very light slap on the wrist will force the political class to respect our rights in the future.

Somehow, that is not very reassuring.