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The IRS Scandal Is a Test: Is It Too Hard to Fire Misbehaving Bureaucrats?


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The Atlantic


Everyone agrees that some employees acted incompetently. So how much time and money will it take to get rid of them?

Conor Friedersdorf

May 23 2013


Under the headline, "Yes, heads should roll at the IRS," Ezra Klein points out that, at the very least, "A number of IRS employees developed criteria that was politically biased both in appearance and in effect. They were reined in once by their superiors, and then they changed the criteria again, and had to be reined in a second time. Their actions called the fairness of the agency into question and kicked off a national scandal. Even if their intent was pure, they showed bad judgment, more than a bit of incompetence, and perhaps even a touch of insubordination."




It's an urgent question for anyone whose preferred policies presume a well-functioning bureaucracy staffed with capable civil servants to oversee and implement them. It behooves us to remember that the IRS and federal, state and local government encompass a lot of honest, hard-working people whose contributions are unsung and who hate scandal and incompetence as much as anyone. But having observed government at all levels for the last decade, I can't help but conclude that the majority of proficient public employees are seeing their agencies and reputations suffer because it is excessively difficult to terminate the worst of the worst.




There are many more examples at the local, state, and federal level. None so far has prompted Democrats or progressives to acknowledge that public employees are so well-protected that the ability to run well-functioning institutions is sometimes being compromised. In one way, the IRS controversy is sure to be unrepresentative since it is getting so much more press than almost any other act of wrongdoing by federal employees. But it will afford us a high-profile opportunity to watch the process play out. Politico explains the difficulties involved in firing anyone in the present controversy. Will protections for the IRS employees responsible for this mess wind up making it harder than it ought to be to reform the agency?






The problem is I'm afraid no one will be held responsible...and punished for this. At least not those really responsible.


As for the private sector...I don't know how it is in management, but out on the factory floor, other than being found standing over a dead body a smoking gun in your hand shouting I shot him...I shot him...it's almost impossible to get fired.

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