IRS: Bad to the Bonus
Whoever said "cheaters never prosper" obviously didn't work at the IRS! There, it seems employees do a great job of collecting everyone's taxes but their own. As if Americans needed another reason to seethe over the agency, government officials are pulling the curtain back on even more corruption.
The latest bombshell comes courtesy of the Department's Inspector General, who is exposing the IRS for doling out almost $3 million in bonuses to employees with "disciplinary issues" that span everything from fraud and abusing agency credit cards to owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. (Apparently, the agency was too busy targeting conservatives to trouble with their own tax returns.) "Employees' tax problems," the Inspector General writes, "included 'willful understatement of tax liabilities over multiple tax years, late payment of tax liabilities, and underreporting of income."
But, as Americans have come to understand, wrongdoing isn't just condoned in this administration -- it's rewarded! Despite their transgressions, more than 1,140 of these negligent workers split $1 million in cash awards and another 10,582 hours of paid leave. Sixty-nine of them even "earned" permanent raises! Meanwhile, under the crushing economic policies of the Obama administration, most law-abiding Americans would be happy just to have jobs, let alone bonuses.
While the country's blood boils, the harsh reality is this: what do we expect? This is, after all, the same administration that put a serial tax evader in charge of enforcing the country's tax policy. And Timothy Geithner wasn't the only one. President Obama nominated at least three agency heads with a history of IRS troubles. Clearly, he didn't mind putting billions of our tax dollars in the hands of people who couldn't be bothered to pay their own. Unfortunately, this administration has never insisted that the government live by the same rules it imposes on others.
Still, insists the IRS's chief officer of Human Capital, "We take seriously our unique role as this nation's tax administrator, and we will strive to implement a policy that protects the integrity of the tax administration system and the reputation of the service." It's time to prove it -- not just by holding the IRS accountable but everyone in the administration responsible for this pervasive problem of lawlessness. Until then, government credibility (which is dangerously close to an oxymoron) will continue to tank.
Is it any wonder that Washington is a magnet for dishonesty? Just last November, the Los Angeles Times ran an interesting story about college students with a history of cheating. Based on Harvard's research, college cheaters are more likely to want government jobs. "If people have the view that jobs in government are corrupt, people who are honest might not want to get into that system," said Harvard's Rema Hanna. "Overall," she explained, "we find that dishonest individuals... prefer to enter government service." Well, if the IRS is any indication, those cheaters will have plenty of competition!
Pledging a Grievance on the Pledge of Allegiance
When it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance, atheists don't know the meaning of the word "quit." Despite loss after loss in federal court, secular groups refuse to give up on their goal of stripping the words "under God" from America's most patriotic exercise. This week, the American Humanist Association (AHA) announced it was taking another crack at the phrase in a New Jersey school district where students daily recite the Pledge.
It's the group's second lawsuit against "under God" in a matter of months -- only this time, AHA is trying a different tact. Borrowing a handful of buzzwords from the same-sex "marriage" debate, the organization is now insisting that this kind of daily exercise treats "atheist and humanist children as second-class citizens, and certainly contributes to anti-atheist prejudices."
Obviously, the forces of political correctness are trying to capitalize on the marriage messaging that that so many courts have embraced. It remains to be seen whether this play for the judges' sympathies will work. As far as the Becket Fund is concerned, trying to prove that children are victimized by the Pledge of Allegiance will be a tall order, even with this twist. As the Fund's Diana Verm pointed out, AHA and its clients "have every right not to say the Pledge if they don't want to, but they don't have the right to silence everyone else."
Unfortunately, this fundamental misunderstanding is affecting a lot more schools than New Jersey's. In Cypress, Texas, parents were furious to hear that a teacher told a second-grader to stop bringing her Bible to school for the class's silent reading time. "They're letting them read the Hunger Games, that's [about] kids killing kids, why can't she read the Bible?" fumed one mom. The girl's parents, who were afraid to go public with the story, turned to Liberty Institute for help. When its attorneys raised the concerns with school officials, a spokesman released a statement distancing the district from the teacher's intolerance and explaining that students can bring their own book as long as they can understand it, and it's deemed appropriate by the school. "As such, religious material, including the Bible, that meets these guidelines would be permissible for a classroom assignment and/or independent reading."
Wrestling Team Takes on Atheist Heavyweight
At South High School, wrestlers are used to going to the mat. Only now, they'll have to do it for their faith. The bullies at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who refuse to pick on anyone their own size, are going after a small West Virginia wrestling program for posting a Bible verse on the school's athletic page. The verse, "I can do all things through Him that strengthens me," has been the team's motto for months -- even appearing on t-shirts that the kids bought themselves. Now, fearing an expensive and time-consuming lawsuit, the local superintendent is ordering the high school to delete Philippians 4:13 from the website with this explanation: "We have to follow the law -- whatever that law might be."
Obviously, the school doesn't have a firm grasp on its students' rights, which is exactly what the folks at FFRF were hoping for. Preying on unsuspecting rural areas is the Left's specialty, because it knows that trying this same stunt on a larger scale would backfire. While the wrestlers complied with the internet request, they draw the line at the shirts they had made for the team.
"It's not part of the official uniform," said an attorney representing one of the kids. "If a student athlete doesn't want to wear that shirt, they don't have to. It's not a requirement." And these students are willing to go to court to prove it. "It's frustrating for the parents," said lawyer Bill Merriman, "because they see a lot of other t-shirts being worn by students that are certainly not religious -- but they are offensive. Nobody is saying they can't wear those shirts." It's a frustrating double standard but not a surprising one. Like Ephesians 6 says, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.
** Don't miss the debut of FRC's Craig James on tomorrow's edition of "Washington Watch," as he guest hosts for me. Listen on your local station or live at TonyPerkins.com.
*** If you couldn't tune in to this afternoon's lecture on euthanasia with FRC's Director for the Center of Human Dignity, Arina Grossu, check it out below.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.