Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A study in the Arrogance of Incompetence

The Congress began the process of trying to understand the scandal at the IRS.  Steven  Miller who seems to have spent his entire education and career in Washington came off as someone with little concern for the possible issues raised by targeting groups by the IRS.   Politico characterized his testimony as follows - "And he maintained that he didn’t lie to Congress — even though he never revealed the targeting program in response to repeated requests from Republican lawmakers in recent years."   The former head of the Exempt Units group in the service, Lois Lerner, who will head up the IRS role in implementing the tax elements of Obamacare, has decided to take the Fifth Amendment.  The Washington Post gave Ms. Lerner Four Pinocchios for her explanation of what happened in this disgraceful episode.  That is as high as a public liar can get.

The NYT tried in an article to spin the story that the whole mess was created because the poor IRS workers in Cincinnati were "overworked."   They threw around huge numbers the IRS gets 70,000 (the article said 60,000) applications a year.   But that number includes all of the types of exempt organizations.  Most of the news services looked at a small increase in the number of applications from 2010 to 2011 and a slightly higher increase in the number from 2011 to 2012.    There were 200 employees in the office which means that even if all of those applications were for C4 organizations and presumably they were not the real increased workload was manageable.  They needed to make some ways to simplify the process of review.  But lets be clear here - according to many sources there were 400 organizations (among all of the applicants) that came under increased scrutiny.  At the height of the problem there were an estimated 2800 C4 applicants.

Critical to respect for government is an understanding that the tax agency operates in a professional manner. Neither Miller nor Lerner seem to understand that.    Comedian Dave Barry summed up the current esteem for the agency which he quipped “The IRS spends God knows how much of your tax money on these toll-free information hot lines staffed by IRS employees, whose idea of a dynamite tax tip is that you should print neatly.”   For an Administration that claimed it would be the most transparent in history - they certainly have not come close to that standard on this episode.

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