Horrors of austerity: $70 million in bonuses for the IRS

The funniest thing about the Democrats’ ridiculous “sequester theater,” in which they pretended that increasing government spending by 6 percent instead of 8 percent would leave America in ruins, is that they didn’t waste any effort on maintaining the pretense.  Even while they were trying to scare us with the alleged horrors of austerity, the government was throwing big money into various frivolities.  Once the sequester drama was over, the champagne corks popped, and the caviar resumed flowing, with breathtaking speed.

So, even as the President gears up for a $100 million junket to Africa (hastily cancelling a big Tanzanian safari after the press got wind of it) and the First Lady checks into a palatial $3,300-per-night suite in Ireland (with 30 more rooms in the five-star hotel booked for her gigantic imperial retinue), we learn that everyone’s favorite government agency is getting ready to hand out $70 million in bonuses.

That’s right: the IRS, at the center of the worst abuse-of-power scandal in modern history, is about to choke down $70 million in taxpayer cabbage to reward itself for a job well done, even though its officials routinely defend themselves from charges of corruption by pleading incompetence.  And according to the Associated Press, they’ll be collecting those bonuses despite a White House directive to cancel them… written by the man who is now acting IRS commissioner.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says his office has learned that the IRS is executing an agreement with the employees’ union on Wednesday to pay the bonuses. Grassley says the bonuses should be canceled under an April directive from the White House budget office.

The directive was written by Danny Werfel, a former budget official who has since been appointed acting IRS commissioner.

“The IRS always claims to be short on resources,” Grassley said. “But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses. And it appears to be making an extra effort to give the bonuses despite opportunities to renegotiate with the union and federal instruction to cease discretionary bonuses during sequestration.”

The IRS said it is negotiating with the union over the matter but did not dispute Grassley’s claim that the bonuses are imminent.

There seems to be some confusion over whether the IRS is legally obligated to pay these bonuses under its collective bargaining agreements.  Which is one more reason public employee unions should be abolished immediately.  It’s an insult to the American taxpayer that they’ve been allowed to continue this long.

According to Senator Grassley, the IRS was originally going to scuttle these bonuses, but in March they worked out a new collective bargaining agreement that put the $70 million back on the table:

In a letter to Werfel on Tuesday, Grassley said the IRS notified the employee union March 25 that it intended to reclaim about $75 million that had been set aside for discretionary employee bonuses. However, Grassley said, his office has learned that the IRS never followed up on the notice. Instead, Grassley said, the IRS negotiated a new agreement with the bargaining unit to pay about $70 million in employee bonuses.

Grassley’s office said the information came from a “person with knowledge of IRS budgetary procedures.”

“While the IRS may claim that these bonuses are legally required under the original bargaining unit agreement, that claim would allegedly be inaccurate,” Grassley wrote. “In fact, the original agreement allows for the re-appropriation of such award funding in the event of budgetary shortfall.”

You just know some of this bonus money is going to your favorite IRS scandal all-stars, don’t you?  Especially since absolutely none of them have been officially reprimanded in a way that would activate some “no soup for you” clause in their union contracts.

Besides illustrating the absurdity of public employee unions, these bonuses give us another reason to get started on big government spending cuts immediately.  When the big spenders try to protect their turf, they claim the current budget crisis isn’t really so bad… and if things get really dicey tomorrow, why, we can always talk about budget cuts then.  But the engine of government spending is massive.  It has tremendous inertia, due to everything from powerful congressional representatives protecting their pork, to countless little rules and agreements that say you can’t cut this, or that, no matter what.

And as we saw during the sequester drama, the people in charge of implementing budget cutbacks have every incentive to make them as painful as possible to the American people, while preserving the stuff most taxpayers have in mind, when we think about cutting back on unnecessary spending.  There’s certainly nothing necessary about paying $70 million in bonuses to the IRS, and it looks as if the White House actually did try to stop it… but it couldn’t.  Keep that in mind the next time you’re told this brilliantly organized, agile super-government can manage both the private sector and its own insolvency.