The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 3, 2013

It's not your money to spend

Daily Item

---- — When someone is on the defensive before a scathing report is issued, the news is damning. As if the Internal Revenue Service needs more damning evidence or scathing reports right now.

Today, the Treasury Department's inspector general will once again put the spotlight on the IRS, which reportedly spent $50 million for more than 200 conferences from 2010 to 2012. The news is so bad the Treasury has already announced it has "taken aggressive and dramatic action to reduce conference spending."

Here is a clear divide between market-driven economics and government budgeting.

No one in the private sector had to be forced to throttle back on travel, training or entertaining conferences when the economy fell down and stayed there after 2008.

Businesses and individuals from coast to coast knew that belt tightening was the order of the quarter -- and then the next quarter and the next and so on.

But somehow, that message escaped the tax men and women of the Internal Revenue Service -- the one government agency so powerful that it actually has a money tree in the back yard.

So with disregard for the people they were taxing or the businesses they may have been driving to the brink, the IRS went on spending sprees.

Investigators have uncovered million-dollar conferences, $50,000 training videos, $17,000 speeches on topics like "Leadership through art" and $3,500 hotel rooms.

No one would ever accuse the IRS of sensitivity and a certain bloodless demeanor may come with the turf. Still, simple survival dictates more savvy than is evident here.

The IRS is an agency attached to the executive branch. The line from management incompetence, irresponsible spending and abuse of authority leads quickly to the White House at a time when political parties and branches of government are locked in political death matches for public confidence.

Couple this mismanagement with the previous accusation that the IRS targeted conservative fundraising groups prior to the last election and government work just doesn't get much riskier than this.

Our system of self-rule relies simply and elegantly on the much-underappreciated public trust. It is a collective hunch, a broadly and deeply held faith, that power can be contained and directed through checks and balances and periodic electoral renewal to serve the public good.

The training the IRS needs doesn't require a conference, a video or a speaker. It is simply this: It is not your money.