It’s not that the IRS deliberately set about to waste taxpayer money. In fact, that’s the problem; they didn’t give it any thought at all. It’s a culture in government with an enormous sense of entitlement that allows this sort of nonsense — and lavish spending on meetings and conferences — to occur.
Nobody’s going to win an Emmy for a parody of the TV show “Star Trek” filmed by Internal Revenue Service employees at an agency studio in Maryland.
Instead, the IRS got a rebuke from Congress for wasting taxpayer dollars.
The agency says the video, along with a training video that parodied the TV show “Gilligan’s Island,” cost about $60,000. The “Star Trek” video accounted for most of the money, the agency said.
The IRS said Friday it was a mistake for employees to make the six-minute video. It was shown at the opening of a 2010 training and leadership conference but does not appear to have any training value.
The video features an elaborate set depicting the control room, or bridge, of the spaceship featured in the hit TV show. IRS workers portray the characters, including one who plays Mr. Spock, complete with fake hair and pointed ears.
The production value is high even though the acting is what one might expect from a bunch of tax collectors. In the video, the spaceship is approaching the planet “Notax,” where alien identity theft appears to be a problem.
“The IRS recognizes and takes seriously our obligation to be good stewards of government resources and taxpayer dollars,” the agency said in a statement. “There is no mistaking that this video did not reflect the best stewardship of resources.”
The agency said it has tightened controls over the use of its production equipment to “ensure that all IRS videos are handled in a judicious manner that makes wise use of taxpayer funds while ensuring a tone and theme appropriate for the nation’s tax system.”
The agency also said, “A video of this type would not be made today.”
The video was released late in the day Friday after investigators from the House Ways and Means Committee requested it.
“There is nothing more infuriating to a taxpayer than to find out the government is using their hard-earned dollars in a way that is frivolous,” said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. “The IRS admitted as much when it disclosed that it no longer produces such videos.”
The film was made at an IRS studio in New Carrollton, Md., a suburb of Washington. The agency said it uses the studio to make training films and informational videos for taxpayers.
Yes, it’s “only” $60,000 — hardly worth the pixels we use to report the story. But isn’t that the problem with government spending in a nutshell? No decision to spend money occurs in a vacuum. Think of how many government employees have the authority to make a decision to spend taxpayer money. Think of how many times a day they exercise that decision making authority. No doubt most of those decisions are wise, or at least, justifiable. But because of a culture that refuses to punish profligacy, waste, or mistakes, little thought is usually given to the consequences of those decisions and those thousands of dollars wasted become hundreds of thousands, then millions, then billions after they are all added up.
Our deficits are not the fault of the bureaucracy. We can place the blame for that squarely on an irresponsible president and congress. But a radical change in the corporate culture within the government has to take place, from top to bottom, if we are going to bring sanity to how the people’s purse is disbursed.