Outside Economics

IRS Scandal

Posted by Wendell Brock, MBA, ChFC on Thu, Jun 13, 2013

The IRS Administrators apologized for the inappropriate targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election. It’s amazing that when the American Public does something wrong they get slapped with fines, jail time, and other penalties, but when a government official (high level or low level) does something wrong they get to apologize. IRS Logo

Here is the rub; according to an AP article by Stephen Ohlemacher, a few weeks ago, he states, “Learner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. Agency officials found out about the practice last year and moved to correct it, the IRS said in a statement.”

Now, I have not worked for the IRS, however I did a recent stint with the SBA, Office of Disaster Assistance, writing loans for Hurricane Sandy victims, and if the IRS, being a government agency operates anything like the SBA, also a government agency, then never do “low-level” people initiate anything. Everything was initiated by Washington.

When a new policy was handed out it was done with consultation with those in charge in Washington or the folks in Washington sent out the policy for distribution. If you were not given the authority to do something you never did it. Period. So for Learner to say that this was initiated by low-level workers, is simply an incomplete truth (not sure I want to call it a lie at this point, because using the word “lie” to me is very serious). 

Low-level workers want to keep their jobs they are not by nature going to stick their neck out to do something risky, against the policy, on their own. The instruction to do something would come from someone higher up, much higher up. Each and every job in the government has a detailed job description, that job description tells you what you can and cannot do, what authority you have and where to go if you need something approved requiring more authority. This is what is supposed to keep them, the federal employees out of trouble. Particularly in an agency that the public relies on for detailed information. 

Additionally, most things that are requested, the low-level workers need to gain approval from people with greater authority. Nothing gets approved without someone else reviewing the entire package to make sure all the “i’s” are dotted with the right size dots. The bigger the approval or more authority sought, the higher up it goes to get approval. 

There are only two options here, if it is true what Learner said that senior officials did not know about the targeting, then 1. They should be fired and fined and jailed, just as any American is for dealing wrongly with the federal government; or 2. They should be fired, fined for negligence on the job. (Not sure I would jail someone for negligence, which is like incompetence, perhaps they simply did not know they were incompetent? In that case it may not be completely their fault.)

The damage done to the IRS and the country because of their actions is enormous. It used to be that you could trust the people who worked for the government, maybe not the politicians, but the employees could be trusted, not any more. For the IRS to have such a monumental breach of trust, they may just as well close it down, and start over. It seems they forgot that liberty is based on trust.

However someone will still be required to collect the taxes – getting rid of the IRS as many are calling for does not get rid of the need for people to be trusted to properly collect the taxes due; but at times getting rid of a federal agency and thinning the ranks, is a very good thing, that we need more of in our country. 

Maybe a flat tax would do much to solve this problem and as Steve Forbes says the tax return should fit on a post card. It would certainly take fewer employees to process a post card than the many multi-page returns we file now. What do you think – should the IRS be abolished?

Topics: IRS, IRS Scandal, IRS Administrators, conservative political groups


Wendell W. Brock, MBA, ChFC

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