Your tax dollars at work

Your tax dollars at work

Unconscionable squandering of federal tax dollars reveals the division between those who run the government and those who pay for running the government.

Heads were turned recently by reports of lavish spending by the Internal Revenue Service on employee conferences — more than 200 between 2010 and 2012 that cost taxpayers $49 million.

Was that an atypical scandal or just business as usual in a federal bureaucracy that is isolated from the public and financial reality? IRS managers profusely apologized for the excesses that were identified in an inspector general's report and promised it wouldn't happen again.

It would be nice to think such lavish use of taxpayers' funds for federal employee meet-ups won't be repeated. But don't hold your breath on that one.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, is raising concerns over what he calls the "jet set culture" at the U.S. Justice Department, where financial records show managers there spent "more than $58 million on conferences" in Fiscal Year 2012 alone.

A comparison of the numbers between the IRS and Justice shows that the spendthrifts at the IRS are pikers compared to those in the Justice Department.

What's especially outrageous at the Justice Department is that this lavish spending continued after the department was warned in FY 2008 to cap its spending on conferences at a mere $15 million a year.

"Still, DOJ spent $47.8 million in 2008 on conferences, more than three times the amount authorized by Congress. Conference spending at DOJ peaked in 2010, when the department spent more than $90 million on conferences," Coburn reports.

What's especially galling is that these kinds of irresponsible expenditures occur at a time when the federal government is running trillion-dollar budget deficits while defenders of these vast bureaucracies claim their budgets are so tight that not one dollar of spending can be cut. Obviously, the conference money trail shows differently.

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