"Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today," assured acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Danny Werfel last week. He referred to outlandish, inexcusable spending of taxpayers' money in a 2010 conference of IRS employees held in Anaheim, Calif.
Werfel referred to the $4 million tab for the conference, attended by 2,600 people. Some of them stayed in "presidential" hotel suites, on the taxpayers' dime. Though it is normal practice for government agencies to negotiate breaks on room rates for such events, the IRS did not bother in Anaheim.
Fifteen speakers at the conference shared a total of $135,000 in fees, with one paid $17,000 to talk about "leadership through art."
Werfel said the conference was "an unfortunate vestige from a prior era." And he said ending such wasteful spending is "a personal priority for me."
Oh, my. Werfel's comments would be more reassuring if we hadn't heard it all before. It won't happen again, taxpayers have been told over and over again for decades. We'll believe it's over when we don't see it happening anymore.
This obscene waste comes at a time when there is documented political profiling going on at the IRS regarding applications for 501C-4 by conservative based groups.
The response by the IRS to this direct attack on citizen freedoms has been arrogance, stonewalling and excuses. And we still don't know the essential fact: Who ordered this obvious out-of-line political pigeonholing.
To add insult to injury, the IRS is the monitoring agency for the conversion to President Obama's national health care implementation. How can anyone feel secure about the IRS having access to health care records given the track record we are now aware of?
The opposite approach is in order for the IRS.
This is a perfect time to consider simplifying and reforming tax laws so that the IRS is less important. This agency has abused our trust beyond all reason. There should be consequences to that that go far beyond the slaps on the wrist that the administration seems to specialize in.
Step Two: Cut the IRS budget. The agency obviously doesn't need the allocation it is getting if it is spending $4.1 million at a training conference with line-dancing seminars.
Step Three: Take the IRS out of the pivot position when it comes to national health care. We would prefer that Obamacare never see the light of day, but if must come to pass goodness knows we don't need the IRS in control of it.
The agency has trashed our trust in it and needs to earn its way back into any vital role.