- - Monday, July 29, 2013

House Republicans and Senate Democrats are squabbling over the Internal Revenue Service budget for next year, and a disinterested observer (if there are any) would expect them to be fighting over who could be roughest and toughest on the agency. But a Senate Appropriations subcommittee wants to shower more money on the wastrels. The senators would give the agency $280 million more that it got last year, an increase of 2.4 percent; the House Appropriations Committee approved a cut of $4 billion, or 25 percent. The wastrels shouldn’t get more of our money to blow.

Consider what the agency could do with another $280 million: The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration found that the top 15 IRS employees treat themselves to $80,000 worth of plane tickets and top-notch hotels every year. One executive spent 321 days away from his station while on “official business.”

Recruits to the top ranks of the IRS enjoy the government paying even the movers, the cost of finding a new house and selling the old one. The agency paid $308,000 to move a single IRS agent. That’s a lot of furniture and knick-knacks for the mantel. Surely the IRS chiefs can find qualified recruits who can hire two guys with a truck, come to that, and move an agent for a lot less than $308,000. Other Americans can, and do, every day.

President Obama calls what’s happening at the IRS and other agencies a “phony scandal,” but struggling Americans — that middle class the president can’t blow enough phony kisses to — feel the pain that Mr. Obama and his bureaucrats seem vaccinated against. Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS‘ tax-exempt organizations division and the prime suspect in the continuing investigation of IRS harassment of Tea Party groups, is paid $3,400 a week to sit at home and watch soap operas. She’s on her third month of paid administrative leave.

It’s not just the executives living it up on paid vacations. Between 2010 and 2012, the agency spent $50 million on lavish parties for employees who were entertained with $60,000 parodies of “Star Trek” and “Gilligan’s Island.” They used their IRS credit cards to buy wine, romance novels, diet pills and online pornography.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, the California Republican who’s leading the congressional investigations, calls the spending “maliciously self-indulgent.” The big spenders in the Senate defend the agency’s profligacy. “The IRS has endured major funding reductions in each of the past three years,” says Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico. “Slashing resources by nearly 20 percent as the House has done, I believe, is counterproductive.”

What’s counterproductive is sweetening the budget of an agency that shows a callous disregard for the American taxpayer, or “customer,” as the IRS calls us. Subsidizing bad behavior, like indulging a misbehaving teenager, only means we’ll get more bad behavior. The IRS should audit that.

The Washington Times