Adding Fuel to the ‘Perfect Storm’ for Federal Pay and Benefits

By on May 19, 2013 in Pay & Benefits with 93 Comments

The Internal Revenue Service is the agency that Americans love to hate.  It is probably the agency that is the most feared because of its power to disrupt your life, your finances and make your life miserable while leaving you with fewer resources than you had before you became a target of an investigation or an audit.

With the current controversy surrounding the agency for targeting of conservative groups based on political beliefs, the agency is making news which has negative implications for the federal workforce.

The testimony of the IRS Commissioner before Congress has probably made the situation worse as his testimony was evasive and designed to avoid providing answers to questions posed by both Democrats and Republicans. His attitude came across on the TV screen as arrogant or condescending. In short, we saw in the nightly national news a perfect stereotype of an unlikable bureaucrat with great power and in charge of an agency that is already disliked and feared by many.

The political narrative has been that a small number of IRS employees went “rogue” and were taking it upon themselves to target conservative organizations. During the Congressional hearing, federal workers were referred to as “foolish” and “incompetent,” and blamed for “horrible customer service.” It isn’t the elected leaders or political appointees, but a few employees hidden in the bowels of the Internal Revenue Service causing all the commotion and targeting Americans for their political beliefs or daring to challenge the administration currently in power.

At the moment, those who pay attention to the news reports are likely to conclude that there is corruption in the IRS at the highest levels or federal employees are dangerous and incompetent. Neither conclusion is good for the federal workforce.

Perhaps the facts, as opposed to speculation, will ultimately be revealed in subsequent hearings or investigations. The bottom line for the federal workforce in the short term is that the image being portrayed to the American public is a federal agency out of control, with no oversight and that employees of the federal government, either at a low level in the agency or political appointees (or both) are using the power of government to target and financially terrorize or destroy other Americans who have views contrary to those employed by Uncle Sam.

For those who are wondering and for those who asked, you can locate the salary of the individuals working for the Internal Revenue Service in Cincinnati, where some employees were at least initially blamed for much of the controversy, at fedsdatacenter.com.

What you will not find are the names of the 391 people listed as being in the Cincinnati office of the IRS. Unlike for most of the federal workforce, the database lists titles and salaries but not individual names for IRS employees since OPM chooses to withhold the names of IRS employees. Here is how to isolate federal employees in the database by agency and location. In this instance, the search was narrowed by agency, location, occupation and year. Once you have entered your search data, click on the “go” button as highlighted:

IRSTLS - Search

After entering the information, you can sort by salary from highest to lowest or lowest to highest. Here is how the top portion of your search with the parameters outlined above and sorted by salary level:

TaxLawSpec

The portrayal of the federal government as targeting individuals and operating without restraint and, possibly run by people with bad intentions and incompetent employees is not good for the federal workforce. Having worked for the federal government and with federal employees for a number of years, my experience has been that if there is a wide ranging scandal involving an agency with the political implications of the current situation involving the IRS, the actions were instigated and at least tacitly approved by those who are much higher in the organization than the average federal employee. It is also common for those higher up in the chain of command to blame someone else for the problems—preferably those too low in the chain of command to do them any real harm after they have been singled out.

No doubt, from comments we see from a wide range of readers, many federal employees throughout government already feel targeted with a multi-year pay freeze, furloughs, proposals to cut benefits, etc. As noted in A Perfect Storm for Federal Employee Pay and Benefits, conditions have been ripe for this series of events for some time. The recent wide ranging problems involving major agencies from the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, Department of the Treasury, State Department and the White House have just added more fuel to the fire.

And, for those who were wondering about locating State Department employees as a result of another major news story often just referred to as “Benghazi,”  the database works the same way. For the agency name, just type in “Department of State”. You can also narrow down the occupation. In this example, we used “Foreign Affairs” to locate names and salaries of those in this agency working in this occupation. In this example, the names are not sorted by salary level. The 2394 people listed are sorted by name. The top portion of y our search results will look like this:

StateDept

In the current climate, proposals to end the pay freeze, increase benefits or take action to financially benefit the federal workforce are unlikely to find much support. Proposals to cut or restrict benefits are more likely to be favorably received.

No one can predict whether the current controversies will be short lived or the start of a long process which will besmirch the names and reputations of low level employees or high ranking elected officials. We can hope for a quick resolution that definitively determines the source of the current problems, actions taken to eliminate any problems, and another turn in the news cycle that does not portray the federal community as corrupt or incompetent.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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