The White House-designed, congressionally endorsed sequestration process was supposed to force Uncle Sam to get his financial house in order. Now, with both political bodies denying paternity, sequestration seems to be coming unglued as furloughs produce major bumps in the road.
In one example at the IRS, furloughs will cost the Treasury about $61,000 per employee while saving just over $1,800 in salary cost.
The first crack in sequestration’s no-exceptions policy came at the Agriculture Department when — thanks to heavy industry pressure — meat and poultry inspectors were exempted from furloughs. Defense has reduced the number of possible furlough days from 22 down to 5 or 7.
Last week, as many had predicted, the Federal Aviation Administration caved, saying that air traffic controllers (but not other FAA workers) are rather essential after all. Members of Congress, who can’t hitch rides on Air Force One, are forced — like the rest of us — to go through the waiting lines and pat-down process at airports that were hit last week by FAA furloughing one in every 10 employees.
The IRS technically doesn’t make money. At least not like the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which prints currency, and the U.S. Mint, which makes coins. But the IRS is the government’s No. 1 source of income. Most of it is raised via voluntary compliance. That is, honest (or terrified) taxpayers who cough up what the ever-increasingly complicated tax rules say they must. But there are some people who either ‘forget’ to file, who claim their shih tzu or pet llama as exemptions or fail to mention income received from another source. Which is where the IRS comes in. Here’s a particular case from an IRS agent in Washington state. He says:
“…I’d like to make a quick comment regarding my furlough that I have not been able to make sense of and the media doesn’t seem to pick up on. During my career I have averaged bringing in $14,000 each working day from my audits of people who don’t seem to be able to get their taxes right. And now I have been given my official notice that I will have the privilege of taking five (maybe seven) furlough days. I know you hate math, Mike, but I’ll walk you through it.
“The government will save $1,850 (my salary — five days at $370) and in the process the government will not receive $70,000 (my $14,000 per- day average for five days). So my furlough ends up costing the government $68,150 (in revenue due but not collected). Now, I must admit, some revenue agents have better results, some worse. But applying any amount IRS-wide comes out with the government losing more than it saves. If our deficit is so important, why are we furloughing the people that are keeping it from getting worse. Or do we really not matter in the overall picture?”
Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, used to be a revenue agent. She says agents aren’t the only one who rake in the bucks for the treasury.
“Every dollar invested in an IRS employee is money well-spent because IRS employees bring in many times more in revenue than what is spent on their compensation,” she said. “According to the IRS, for every dollar invested in the IRS, $4 is returned to the Treasury. Depending on the occupation, that ratio can be as much as $22 dollars for every $1 spent The IRS collects 93 percent of our nation’s revenue. Furloughing IRS employees at a time when we are trying to address the deficit and our nation’s financial problems makes no sense whatsoever.”
An 80-year-old woman accidentally swallowed a diamond at a charity event in Tampa, Fla., this month. The woman was taking part in a contest in which a 1.03-carat diamond was placed at the bottom of a glass of champagne when she inadvertently swallowed the precious gem. Fortunately, she had already been scheduled for a colonoscopy a few days later, where the diamond was retrieved.
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