I’ve watched the congressional hearings on the IRS scandal, and like others, have been appalled at the glib performance of former IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman. Shulman isn’t taking an ounce of blame for the mess even though he headed the agency from 2008 to 2012. Dana Milbank reviews his slippery and rather arrogant performance in the Washington Post today.
Unfortunately, we can’t fire the Bush-appointee and Democratic-donor Shulman because he’s already escaped to the private sector. But we can fire other misbehaving IRS workers when we unravel the mystery of who ordered the political targeting.
Politico wrote yesterday that “heads won’t roll at the IRS.” The article is right that it is very difficult to fire federal workers, and I’ve written about the extremely low federal firing rate. The article says that 8,755 people were fired last year. But that was out of 2.1 million civilian federal employees, or just 0.4 percent of the total.
Politico notes that strong civil service protections are a big hurdle to firing. But just as important, I think, has been the unwillingness of federal managers to put the time and effort into removals. It’s much easier for managers to move troublesome employees off to a quiet office to get them out of the way, or to transfer them out of their section.
Chris Edwards is the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, and editor of www.DownsizingGovernment.org. Before joining Cato, Edwards was a senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and an economist with the Tax Foundation.
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