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Politicized Goals for Civil Servants Not Limited to IRS
Regarding your editorial "The IRS Wants You" (May 14): Although many questions remain, the Treasury inspector general is exactly right that the IRS must take action on the "substantial number of applications [that] have been under review, some for more than three years." This includes my client, SecureAmericaNow.org. Its application for tax-exempt status has been pending since August 2011 and was initially considered, if at all, during a time frame when the IRS's "advocacy team" was using inappropriate criteria that included the policy positions of organizations.
In the case of SecureAmericaNow.org, the red flag apparently was the group's nonpartisan mission to educate, mobilize and provide a platform for citizen activists (now numbering 200,000) to address vital national-security and foreign-policy matters. Updated criteria didn't protect SecureAmericaNow.org from continuing to be targeted for multiple rounds of questioning in the months leading up to the 2012 elections, and it is still waiting for IRS approval after 21 months.
To add to the injury, the organization's confidential taxpayer information was unlawfully released to the self-styled nonprofit newsroom, ProPublica, in what must be a record 13 days. ProPublica has refused to return or destroy this information, and the IRS representatives in Washington to whom I spoke would only respond that cases like this are reviewed internally and referred to the inspector general if appropriate. Additionally, the IRS has yet to acknowledge the letter sent on March 21 by more than two-dozen attorneys regarding this unlawful disclosure.
Further questioning and investigation are clearly warranted, but first the IRS should take action and close these cases, as urged in the IG report.
Have you heard? President Obama will not "tolerate" the IRS targeting conservative groups. The president expresses his outrage and intolerance often. He seems to think that he simply has to state that he will not tolerate something and it will stop. Here are some recent examples. He will not tolerate Syria using chemical weapons. He will not tolerate attacks on Americans. He will not tolerate sexual harassment or rape in the military. He will not tolerate school shootings. He will not tolerate the IRS targeting conservative groups. He will not tolerate another debt-ceiling debate. We can all rest assured that these things will not happen again because he will not tolerate them. Right. And don't forget, President Obama has stated that he will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Should we be concerned? You bet.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
I'm now retired, but I worked for government for over 38 years. I am therefore well aware of how the "blame game" works. All midlevel and upper-level managers will at some time in their career be given a verbal directive that is fraught with risk. If they refuse, they will be accused of insubordination. If they act as directed and things go awry, they run the risk of being accused of acts not in keeping with their job description and therefore, overstepping their authority, an act that warrants dismissal. I have seen it happen over and over, and what's going on now with Bengazi, the IRS and the Justice Department's handling of AP reporters are prime examples. It seems in this administration no one of rank is responsible for anything unless it's admirable.
Barry J Branagan
Casa Grande, Ariz.
David Plouffe's tweet: "Impt to note GOP groups flourished last 2 elections, overwhelming Ds." Perhaps they might have "flourished" and overwhelmed Ds even more had they had not been intimidated.
West Bloomfield, Mich.
The Problem With the Pentagon's Sex Survey
Capt. Lindsay Rodman makes a case for fact-based public policy while demolishing the mechanics and conclusions of the subject survey on unwanted sexual contact ("The Pentagon's Bad Math on Sexual Assault," op-ed, May 20). Her essay demonstrates her talent and the values she learned in the Marine Corps. It's followed by the disclaimer that: "Her opinions do not reflect the position of the Defense Department or the Marine Corps."
You've found the problem.
Diversity of Thought, but Only for Progressive Opinions
Regarding Danielle Charette's "My Top-Notch Illiberal Arts Education" (op-ed, May 16) I had the singular pleasure of attending Swarthmore College during the 1960s. Your commentator would, unfortunately, have recognized it then based on her own experiences now. One learned early that free discussion stopped at ideological borders established by the more aggressive students and that the only recognized right thinking was left thinking.
The president and faculty did as little then as they apparently do now to promote discussion.
The school, nonetheless, had many fine qualities, but it will never be a first-rate institution until it learns to teach its students the First Amendment to the Constitution.
If Ms. Charette is so upset, why doesn't she transfer to a "good" school?
When I was an undergrad at Miami University, I had this silly notion that I was supposed to concentrate on learning something in class instead of peeling apart the university's investment strategy.
Jed Wegner Grisez
Specific to the students' and administration's attempt to take over the investment decisions for the endowment, I say let them do it. Appoint a student spokesperson to the board investment committee. Naturally, that person will act as a fiduciary under the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, subject to SEC/Finra regulations, and Pennsylvania and federal laws. This appointee can explain to the donors and taxpayers (the endowment's legal constituents) why the $200 million in lost earnings over the next 10 years (the estimated losses from the divestment from fossil fuels) redounds to the benefit of the legal constituents. Of course, if this appointee is wrong, like the other fiduciaries on the board, he or she will be personally liable for the penalties, fines and possible criminal actions for breaching fiduciary duty.
This should make it a little quieter on campus.
Hats off to Danielle Charette for taking on the sanctioning by Swarthmore of the behavior of a thuggish, dissent-stifling mob of left-wing students. The time has come for Swarthmore and all colleges and universities to show some spine and enforce the right of would-be dissenters from the ultra-left view, or any view, for that matter, to be heard.
FAA Bonuses and High Standards
In your editorial "FAA Bonuses and the Sequester" (May 15) you relate that the Federal Aviation Administration awarded pay increases averaging 1.6% to a quarter of its employees because the agency "met more than 93% of its performance goals" for the 2012 fiscal year. These were awarded despite a cabinet-level directive to agency heads not to do so.
I worked many years for a major bank, a large bureaucracy if there ever was one. Employees who met their goals got to keep their jobs. Those who achieved 93%, or less, were admonished to improve their performance. Those who missed two years in a row, absent extenuating circumstances, were likely to be asked to find employment more consistent with their capabilities. Only a small number who significantly exceeded goals received bonuses. They could be 5%-10% of salary, on a one-time basis, for an outstanding contribution. Department heads who deliberately violated senior management orders would be on the street in short order.
If the FAA, or any other public sector bureaucracy, met similar criteria, the likely result would be a smaller staff, more output from the survivors and real progress in meeting sequester goals,
West Hartford, Conn.
Seldom, if ever, are the established performance objectives at most federal agencies a "stretch." Rather, they live well inside a known performance comfort zone, a sort of 12-minute mile. Instead of awarding bonuses, the FAA should be addressing what the specific performance objectives are that were not achieved, why they were not achieved and what is being done to correct the problem.
New Bankruptcy Chapter No Answer
While Profs. Kenneth E. Scott and John B. Taylor offer a novel approach to the too-big-to-fail problem ("How to Let Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Fail," op-ed, May 16), implementation of such a plan will be difficult for three main reasons. Having a new bankruptcy chapter installed will be nearly impossible with the current dysfunction in Washington. Evidence of this can be seen in both the number of major bankruptcy reforms (two in 30 years) and in the difficulty in implementing Dodd-Frank itself, which was passed three years ago.
While Messrs. Taylor and Scott insist that a Chapter 14 would be better than Dodd-Frank's Orderly Liquidation Authority, they also state that the bankruptcy court could handle reorganizations for banks with over $100 billion in assets through "a specialized panel of judges and court-appointed special masters." However, there have been only three bankruptcies this large in U.S. history, so how does one define a judge or financial expert for bankruptcies this large when there have been so few bankruptcies this large?
Finally, there is psychology-based skepticism. The probability of an orderly bankruptcy is a function of many factors, one of which is the industry in which the debtor firm participates. The phrases "orderly bankruptcy" and "too big to fail bank" seem odd because the latter determines the former. If stakeholders and creditors believe that an institution is floundering, then the valuation of the assets of the bank, and the psychological beliefs of those that value the assets of the bank, are endogenous to each other. This endogeneity is especially problematic for true reorganization.
Richard S. Brown
Department of Management
The Philippines Needs to Apologize
Taiwan's recent military drills in the South China Sea and its sanctions on new applications of Filipino workers were actions that Taiwan was forced to take to protest the Philippines' violation of international law ("Taiwanese Military Drills Amid Sea Dispute," Asia News, May 17).
On May 9, a well-armed Philippine government vessel opened fire and shot at least 59 bullets with automatic weapons into an unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat one-sixth its size. Then it sailed away without offering assistance to the victims, causing the death of a 65-year-old fisherman. It was an excessive use of force which violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and was not an act of self-defense.
As a peace-loving country, Taiwan will insist on using peaceful means to address this issue and will continue to provide a friendly environment for Filipino workers already in the country. However, we call on the government of the Philippines to respond to Taiwan's demands for a formal apology, just compensation, a thorough investigation and resumption of the fishery talks so that the incident can be resolved.
Director, Press Division
Taipei Economic and
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