To paraphrase the old Chinese curse, we definitely live in interesting times.
It’s a day and age when the police will come knocking on a 5-year-old’s front door in search of overdue library books and the Department of Education will use a SWAT team to bust down your door to conduct a search for paperwork. If you ever doubted how far the government will go to track down every dime owed to it by taxpayers, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service was recently exposed seizing the tax returns of adult children to recoup decades-old Social Security overpayments.
The inherent lesson to all of us is simple: pay up, shut up, and do what you’re told, or else. The “or else” part is the very interesting side of the equation.
If you were Russia, now on the verge of invading a neighboring nation, it would mean “Stop … or I’ll shout, ‘Stop!’ again!” If you’re a Mexican who wants to cross the border into the United States and begin living on the welfare state, that means rolling out the red carpet, undoing everything it means to be an American in the process (i.e. those silly things we call our borders, our language and our culture).
If you’re an American citizen — the people paying the bills — it’s an entirely different situation. For us, “or else” means getting trampled under the boot of an increasingly militarized federal government. The DoE has SWAT teams, as we learned in 2011; and now we learn the Bureau of Land Management does, too.
Worst of all, they’re not afraid to use them.
In fact, they’re all too willing and eager to hand that sort of capability down to local law enforcement.
Has your community received its hand-me-down Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected transport vehicle? My local sheriff’s department got its up-armored MRAP (used in Iraq) a couple weeks ago, saying it would be used as a “rescue vehicle.”
To quote Nipsey Russell: Riiiiiiiiight.
If you belong to one of the ruling classes — in this case, a government employee — there’s no such thing as “or else,” (or “pay up,” for that matter). No, government employment comes with protections these days, especially if you work for the IRS.
Last week, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George told Congress that from October of 2010 through December of 2012, more than 2,800 employees of the agency responsible for administering U.S. tax code and collecting said taxes were paid bonuses despite “conduct issues resulting in disciplinary action.” They received $2.8 million in monetary bonuses and more than 27,000 hours in time-off rewards.
That’s about $1,000 and 10 hours of paid time off per disciplined employee.
The real salt in the wound for the American taxpayer is that a large number of those disciplined employees were reprimanded for — get this — not paying their taxes. More than 1,100 IRS employees who were “behind” on their taxes were paid about $1 million in monetary bonuses and received 10,000 hours of paid time off.
I’m all for paying high-performing employees more. I do it all the time at my day job; I call them raises.
But I do that within the confines of my budget — what I can actually afford (sorry, can’t print my own money, legally)— and it follows an honest assessment of said employee’s performance.
My views on federal taxes aside (let’s just say I’m not a fan; a topic for another day) it’s a slap in the face of the law-abiding citizens who are paying their taxes under threat of wage garnishment, or in a worst-case scenario, a SWAT team breaking down their front door. But it’s just another extension of the entitlement society we live in today.
Federal employees are not immune to the sense of entitlement you might otherwise find in welfare recipients: they exist, therefore they deserve it.
It’s not too uncommon to what I frequently see from new college graduates these days (gee, I wonder where they got it from): “I did my job, now reward me for it. I’m a great employee.” Never mind whether or not the job was done right, or if said employee went “above and beyond” to get it done.
If you want to make things like this “go away,” we need some serious entitlement reform. I’m talking about the kind that changes “I deserve it” to “I’ve got to earn it.”