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Editorial: What sequester? IRS wants its $70M bonuses

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Under the federal government’s $85 billion in sequestration cuts, military training for people who are likely to be deployed for combat has been canceled or delayed, cancer clinics have turned away Medicare patients from costly chemotherapy as well as slashed the number of participants in clinical trials, states are cutting unemployment benefits, national parks have cut back on cleaning crews, federal public defenders are taking leave and bogging down the courts, and Head Start is putting tens of thousands of poor kids out on the street.

And more employee furloughs are expected to hit next month.

Yet the irresponsible, incompetent Internal Revenue Service is planning on handing out $70 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses, saying they are required legally, by union contract. You cannot make this up. Having the IRS cite the law is amusing, considering this is the same agency under fire for targeting nonprofits and individuals for their political leanings. The same IRS that wasted around $50 million on conferences that included $3,500-a-night presidential suites and a lame Star Trek video parody. The same IRS that wants more of your money to oversee compliance with Obamacare.

Why would Congress give this out-of-control agency anything but a tongue lashing?

In fact, that’s all Sen. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa, wants to dole out. The senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the IRS, says the bonuses should be canceled under an April directive from the White House budget office written, coincidentally, by Danny Werfel, a former budget official who is now acting IRS commissioner.

Werfel recently defended his new agency, saying the lavish conferences were “an unfortunate vestige from a prior era.”

If that’s so, then his “new” IRS should honor his directive and deal with the same cutbacks as the rest of the country. Meanwhile, Congress should withhold any new funding until it is clear this alleged “new” IRS is more responsible and accountable than the old one.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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