The Edmond Sun

July 22, 2013

OUR VIEW: Throw out government cheaters

The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Conservatives for decades have argued that government is too bloated, that the United States is becoming over-regulated and that both conditions are harmful to our economic future.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., have highlighted an issue that just proves that the U.S. government truly needs a good pruning.

More than 311,000 federal employees and retirees now owe a total of $3.5 billion in federal taxes, according to the IRS. That’s right — billion with a “b.”

According to a fact sheet released by Coburn’s office, the IRS has found the following delinquencies:

• Of the delinquent employees, 107,658 are currently employed by the government owing a total of $1.013 billion in unpaid taxes.

• There are 141,980 military and civilian retirees owing $2.1 billion in unpaid taxes.

Of the departments highlighted in Coburn’s report, the highest number of offenders work for the U.S. Postal Service. There are 22,404 employees owing more than $215 million in delinquent taxes. Even more eye-popping are the 2,552 employees of the Department of Justice — you know, the department tasked with prosecuting crimes — who owe more than $20 million in back taxes.

Employees of the House of Representatives and the Senate are not any more honest than some of their fellow government workers. Records show as of 2011 there were 688 employees of those two bodies who owe more than $10 million in back taxes. And let’s not forget the 40 employees of the Executive Office of the White House who owe $333,485 in unpaid taxes.

We completely agree with Sen. Coburn that it’s wrong for American taxpayers to pay the salaries of tax cheats. His and Sen. Pryor’s proposal to fix the problem deserves more attention. Senate bill 1045 calls for federal employees with seriously delinquent taxes to no longer be eligible for their jobs. A similar bill was approved in the House last year.

We’re not sure why both houses of Congress cannot get this commonsense bill passed into law as it should be the easiest debate all year. Especially as federal employees in Oklahoma — and elsewhere — begin their furloughs brought on by sequestration, it seems painfully obvious that the government has the means to collect revenue it’s owed.

That revenue could have helped those sequestered employees keep more money in their pocketbooks as they face back-to-school clothing and supply costs.

The fact that federal workers are continuing to collect paychecks while breaking the law is demoralizing and infuriating. Leading by example would go a long way toward restoring some small amount of trust and faith in our government.

The fact that Senate leadership did not call this bill up for a vote shows they are not paying attention to the American people’s desire for better government.

If you want Senate Bill 1045 to stop sitting idly in the Senate, voice your opinion to Senate leadership.

Call or email Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and demand that they do something to end the sorry state of cheating in the federal government.