The PJ Tatler

IRS Used Its $4 Million TV Studio to Shoot Awful, Pointless Star Trek Parody

CBS unearthed this little gem, in which your Internal Revenue Service tries going where no man has gone before, or really ought to go, ever.

According to a statement from the IRS, the “Star Trek” video (see above) was created to open a 2010 IRS training and leadership conference.

“Back in Russia, I dreamed someday I’d be rich and famous,” says one crew member in the parody.

“Me too,” agrees another. “That’s why I became a public servant.”

And the two fist bump.

A separate skit based on the television show “Gilligan’s Island” was also recorded. The IRS told Congress the cost of producing the two videos was thought to be about $60,000 dollars.

The IRS claims that the videos saved money on travel for training. Skype is a whole lot cheaper, but was not used.

There are two scandals here. One is the videos and their unique blend of hackery and awfulness. The other is the cost of the IRS’ TV studio.

Here’s how that probably happened. Federal agencies employ baseline budgeting. In baseline budgeting, agencies are given a certain amount of money to spend every year, and that amount is the starting point for budgeting the next year. Unless, that is, the agency fails to spend all of the money allotted to it during the fiscal year. Then it could face a budget cut — a real cut, not just a cut in the rate of growth. So agencies tend to spend conservatively through most of the year, see where they stand in July and August ahead of the fiscal year’s end in October, and if they have money available and are in danger of not spending every penny, they go on spending sprees to get all their money spent. The IRS TV studio may well have been part of one of those year-end spending sprees. Somebody found a way to justify it as a training method, somebody else handled the RFPs, and the money got spent and the studio got built.

Then, they had to actually use it for something to justify why they spent the money. So the craptacular Star Trek video was created.

Well, it was either that, or the IRS has a public affairs official on staff who decided to build their fiefdom by creating the TV studio and staffing it to build their power base within the bureaucracy. One great means of building power within government is to use other people’s money and sell your expensive idea as “cutting edge” or a result of some “shark tank” session or something.

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