Why Lois Lerner, the Bureaucrat Behind the IRS Scandal, Probably Won't Lose Her Job



On May 22, just one day after visiting the White House, liberal pundits Ezra Klein and Josh Marshall both called for Lois Lerner, the head of exempt organizations for the IRS, to be fired for her role in the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Two hours later, Salon's Joan Walsh demanded the same thing.

Their demands will likely go unheeded, as Dan Foster explains at National Review Online:

Statistically speaking, the firing of a federal employee is a rare event. A Cato Institute study showed that in one year, just 1 in 5,000 non-defense, civilian federal employees was fired for cause. A widely cited analysis byUSA Today found that in FY 2011, the federal government fired just 11,668 out of 2.1 million employees (excluding military and postal workers). That's a "separation for cause" rate of 0.55 percent, roughly a fifth the rate in the private sector.

The firing of employees who fit Lerner's profile is rarer still. Lerner is very much a "white-collar" employee, and the same analysis found that blue-collar employees (such as food-service workers) were twice as likely to be fired. Lerner is a twelve-year vet at IRS, and before that was associate counsel at the Federal Elections Commission for many years. But fully 60 percent of federal employees fired were in their first two years on the job. Lerner has averaged $185,000 in salary from 2009 to 2012, but only 0.18 percent of federal employees making more than $100,000 were let go for cause. Most relevant of all, Lerner is a lawyer, and just 27 of the government's 35,000 lawyers lost their jobs in 2011 — six fewer than left federal employment via the Big Sleep.

Part of the reason so few federal workers are let go is surely the, shall we say, culture of lowered expectations synonymous with government bureaucracy. But the greater part of it is that firings are complex and time-consuming. Forty-nine states have "at-will" employment laws, meaning that, specific contracts and covenants aside, a private-sector employer can let an employee go for any reason at all, with a few exceptions for things like discrimination and (ironically enough) the intimidation of whistleblowers. But in Washington, the process can take 18 months or more.

Not too long ago we ran a piece at Reason explaining why cops who routinely break the law seldom lose their jobs, something that defenders of public sector employees and their insanely generous job protections seem to forget pretty regularly. 

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  1. See, the committee ought to be focusing on why it’s so hard to eliminate bad employees, instead of whether they need to call Lerner back so they can get more time grandstanding for the cameras.

    1. It’s not merely grandstanding. IF they handle this correctly, they can force her to either accept immunity and testify, or nail her ass for perjury.

      At a minimum they could get her disbarred, which she definitely deserves.

      The transcript of the deposition of Oliver North yesterday tells me that this woman has a habit of using barratry against people she doesn’t like, and I would not be surprised if she isn’t guilty of numerous article 11 violations.

      1. What was that you say?…..25004.html

        1. Yep, that’s the bit.

          I logged a number of hours in depositions during my divorce, and only a person who is utterly evil and depraved would badger someone who was under oath for hours with questions like “why is that particular Christian cleric/vicar/priest/pastor praying for you?”

          The only purpose of doing that is to intimidate or to force someone to a mistake that can be used to accuse them of perjury.

        2. somebody set up us the bomb.

    2. Oh for fuck’s sake. Why is it that the liberal talking point du jour is about “grandstanding”? She used an agency for political purposes and fucking lied about it, and the only thing you have to say is something about grandstanding?


      1. Because if they’re not grandstanding, then that means the Rethuglicans are right about something.

        And we can’t have that.

        1. Yes, because saintly Republicans would never grandstand. Only an evil liberal could possibly think such noble people would ever appear on camera for anything less than the purest of motives.

          1. Don’t move the goal-posts, Stormy.

            The problem here wasn’t the difficulty in firing a bad employee.

            Lerner’s career is that of a lawyer who was the darling of the progressive movers and shakers within the civil service. She keeps getting promoted! Her malefactions should be quite rightly front and center, and if some venal and corrup pols get to grandstand as part of that, it shouldnt’ be any skin off anybody’s nose.

            1. Sometimes Stormy loves to get all rah rah Team Blue.

              Posturing for cameras is a venal sin. Using the State to intimidate your political foes is a mortal one. Or should be anyway.

              Anyone want to lay odds she gets promoted?

              1. Anyone want to lay odds she gets promoted?

                She probably already has. Isn’t she now in charge of the IRS’ Obamacare enforcement office? Or is that some other bureaucrap I’m thinking of? It’s hard to keep all the shit weasels straight, especially since they’re all interchangeable assholes anyway.

          2. Ummm…beyond the normal team players, who CARES if they’re grandstanding? Is what they’re saying right? If not, how so? If yes, then grandstand away. Call as much attention to it as you possibly can. Their motives in revealing the truth don’t particularly interest me in the least. Our entire system of checks and balances ASSUMES that politicians are going to grandstand to point out the other side’s malfeasance. It’s the revelation of the malfeasance that’s important.

            1. “Ummm…beyond the normal team players, who CARES if they’re grandstanding?”

              Grandstanding is questioning rogue agencies. Invoking the ghosts of dead children to get gun control legislation passed is “doing your job”.


              1. Grandstanding – what you accuse your political opponents of when you don’t even have one leg to stand on.

                1. Yes. It’s a variation of the old charge: “They’re just using this for political purposes!”

            2. 1. I care about grandstanding because it means the actual problem isn’t going to get fixed. As soon as the next outrage of the week pops up, they’ll all move on to grandstanding about that and everyone will forget about this.

              2. I care because they’re trying to create a loophole to the fifth amendment where merely asserting your innocence waves your right to remain silence. If that idea takes hold in the public conscience, we’re gonna have federal law enforcement claiming that once you tell them you didn’t do something, you have to answer their questions too. Screwing over thousands of people isn’t worth an hour of two of schadenfreude on C-SPAN

              1. Well, then we have different definitions of grandstanding. I don’t think inaction is a necessary part of the matter. I think they can pursue it.

                And, yes, I agree with you on the stupidity of the fifth amendment “gotcha”. But, it’s already a standard practice in the legal realm. If you deny something in court, you’ve already waived your fifth amendment rights. The law should be changed, but its hardly an innovation.

              2. That isn’t a loophole – that’s how it works in court. Ask vaunted conservative attorney Alan Dershowitz:


                1. Yeah, but they’re not in court. Up until now outside of court you were free to clam up wherever you liked, even mid sentence.

                  1. So what? This isn’t going to create this bogus hypothetical precedence you’re worried about unless LEOs are going around swearing people in.

                    You don’t get to assert your innocence then refuse to answer your questions. That isn’t how the Fifth Amendment works.

              3. Well GOP does stand for “Grandstanding on the Potomac”

              4. I don’t know if this particular “outrage of the week” has quite as short a shelf life as you think. This one probably has legs.

                In any event, your point #2 simply means that you don’t know the law about invoking the 5th Amendment privilege. (No shame there; Darrell Issa apparently doesn’t either.) One can’t offer partial testimony then
                assert a right to clam up. It’s all or nothing. Once you begin to testify you are properly subject to cross-examination. She screwed up.

                But more importantly, no government official should *ever* have the right to refuse to testify concerning his official duties. The Congress and the American people have an absolute right to know how the government’s business is being conducted. Any government official who seeks to assert the privilege should have to resign first. You may have a constitutional privilege against self-incrimination but you do not have any right to government employment. They need to be held to a higher standard.

          3. To crib from Goldwater, grandstanding to expose evil government agencies is no vice.

            And you know what pisses me off about you, personally and Team Blue folks in general? Your persistent, constant need to inject irrelevant partisan bullshit into everything. Is YEAH BUT REPUBLICANS the only fucking argument you have?

            Seriously. Grow. Up.

      2. because any criticism of Obama or Dems in general is either grandstanding or racist. And in some cases, it’s both.

        1. No, pretty much anything any politician says about anything is grandstanding. Posturing for cameras instead of actually doing their job is pretty much all politicians do.

          1. “Posturing for cameras instead of actually doing their job is pretty much all politicians do.”

            Their job isn’t oversight of government agencies that target political opponents for special “consideration”? What exactly is their job if this isn’t it? If they weren’t on camera would they be “doing their job”?

          2. so they just sit quietly while agencies do stupid if not evil things? Yes, they grandstand. So what? It’s not like the politicians here made up this case. The IRS did that all on its own, giving them something on which to grandstand.

            1. See, if Rs call out the Ds on something, they are grandstanding. If they don’t, they’re not doing their jobs.

              Big surprise – Stormy Dragon’s set up a Team Blue “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” scenario.

              1. I see politics more like being Ukranian in the 1930s and been asked to decide whether I want to fight for Hitler or Stalin. Just because the Democrats are wrong doesn’t mean the Republicans can’t also be simultaneously wrong.

                1. The problem is that here the Democrats are wrong and the Republicans are not, but you feel the need to try to shoehorn in equivalence anyway, because you’re partisan.

                  1. There’s a figure of speech, “don’t be right…and dumb.”

                    So, they are right (the IRS acted immorally and likely illegally). But also dumb, because the grandstanding will eventually appear disingenuous and they will have squandered an opportunity to limit the predatory reach of our government.

                    1. Yo do realize that most Republican politicians adore big government and have no interest in limiting its predatory reach *whatsoever*.

                    2. I have zero illusions about the GOP which is why I am not a Republican.

                      I have this crazy fantasy that the principle involved here leads to some limited government renaissance in the US. #looney

                      Don’t know if I am the “concern troll” or not. I just know how little stomach people have for the GOP, me included. I just want to see the thing trimmed down.

                    3. Concern troll is concerned.

                      A key indicator that you have lost the argument is when you start hollering about “overreach” and “grandstanding”

                    4. +1

                2. Another head-I-win-tails-you-lose scenario, judging by your love of the State.

    3. Didn’t you read the article? It’s not hard to get rid of bad government employees – it’s just that the government doesn’t have any bad employees.

      Public service tends to attract public servants – the selfless humble paragons of virtue who feel the holy calling to serve others despite the low pay, long hours, lack of job security or fringe benefits, not to mention the knowledge that they have several hundred million citizen masters wielding power over them.

      Really, public servants are all nothing less than saints. Not that they would expect you to worship them, of course.

      1. Top Men. Why would you ever fire Top Men?


    Here’s why she should be fired.

    1. Yes. Read this.

  3. It should be easy to remove any official, appointed, hired, or elected. It’s totally insane to make these people so unaccountable for their actions that they can behave unethically and/or illegally without consequence. At a minimum they should lose their jobs. But they should also be prosecuted. This is a big fucking deal, and not just this particular instance.

    1. The current setup wasn’t designed for kicks.

      In the 19th century, there were problems due to Presidents firing the whole civil service and giving all the jobs to his supporters. Imagine a FEMA full of Brownies. 😉

      I don’t see this as a problem, because as an anarchist, I’d prefer a state that is incompetent but venal rather than one that is full of people who are competent and righteously evil.

      1. …”I’d prefer a state that is incompetent but venal rather than one that is full of people who are competent and righteously evil.”

        Not sure. An idiot is just as dangerous as thug if they both have nukes.

        1. When they are incompetent, the nukes tend not to work…

          Just sayin.

      2. I’d prefer the old system. Now we have a professional class of bureaucrats, and that’s a damn disaster.

        1. Yes, I think this was yet another “progressive” reform that has turned out to be worse than the problem it was trying to solve.

      3. Limiting the power of presidents to do that is one thing; limiting removal power altogether is something else.

        Again, another reason we need. . .the Censor!

  4. Riggs Alt-Text for the Win!

    “…but I can only choose one!”

  5. I love the self-righteous indignation of the Ezra Committee, ready to dispense with this inconvenient woman in service to Obama as if she acted unilaterally.

    1. On the first day on the job, all IRS functionaries are instructed that, should the need arise, they will be thrown to the mob to protect whatever ruling junta is in charge that week.

      She chose the Thug Life.

    2. Not to mention Ezra and the rest of the Obama Fluffer Brigade had a cozy chat at the White House to coordinate their message.

      1. Yeah, you’d think “journalists” or even editorialists who coordinate their stories both with each other and the government itself would be personae non grata in any respectable newsroom.

    3. “I love the self-righteous indignation of the Ezra Committee, ready to dispense with this inconvenient woman in service to Obama as if she acted unilaterally.”

      I thought they were going to go after Schulman, since he was appointed by…wait for it….BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH! But, that didn’t take off. Someone asked him if he ever contributed to a political campaign and he started squirming.

      1. then go after him, too, if he’s involved. No one cheerleads for Bush here. Ezra’s life, meantime, is devoted to cheerleading for The Obama.

        1. “then go after him, too, if he’s involved. No one cheerleads for Bush here.”

          The point wasn’t about cheerleading for Bush. The point was, he was dead in their sights…asked several times who he was appointed by, made out to be an idiot, and all of it stopped when he was asked about making political contributions.

  6. It’s a fine art to discern how deep the shit is getting, and when to cut parts of your team loose into the shit, to save your shit from the rising tide of shit.

    Ezra is wedded to Obamacare, he was keeping Dem Senators on message about it. He’s not quite a journalist, but a prog crusader.

    If Obama smells like shit, so does he.

  7. Who in the FUCK is this punk Klein?

    The only result for this bitch Lerner is that she’s moved up another notch on the ‘obnoxious twat that should be nowhere near government’, on her quest to out annoy and fuck things up better than Jamie Gorelick. The both of them should be cast adrift in a small raft in the Sargasso Sea, with a notice to sailors to avoid the area for at least a year.

    1. If two government flunkies were set out to sea and dehydrated to death in excruciating pain but no one knew about it, would justice be served?

  8. What difference at this point does it make?

    1. I’m not trying to defend the government here, but the quotes from that article is a bunch of hokum (and not the good kind).

      It is pretty rare for professionals to be fired. At my company, they have gotten rid of tons of bad employees but only a couple were fired. Instead, they get walked into a room and told that they are being laid off or that they need to resign. Or they get put into a Performance Improvement Plan and then go find a new job elsewhere before the hammer falls.

      I just don’t see how these stats about termination with cause identify whether or not a significant (or miniscule) number of federal workers are being “Let go”.

  9. Listening to the nitwits on the teevee this morning, I couldn’t help being mildly amused by their complete inability to recognize the simple and obvious farce of Congress complaining about the IRS’ enforcement of absurdly complex rules which they themselves (Congress, that is) created.

    “Excuse me, sir, but if you really don’t want the IRS to behave like a tyrannical bureaucracy, perhaps you should take a serious look at how they BECAME a tyrannical and unaccountable leviathan.”

    1. Well, partly. Let’s not forget, Congress delegates much of the development of absurdly complex rules to the Executive.

      1. This.


  10. Why Lois Lerner, the Bureaucrat Behind the IRS Scandal, Probably Won’t Lose Her Job

    While I don’t disagree with any of the points raised in the post, there’s an even more basic reason: because whether she was specifically ordered to do what she did or not, her superiors probably support the results of her actions. Sure, they may feign outrage for the cameras, but at the end of the day they fully support what she did.

    1. which is exactly where HER losing a job is a sideshow distraction. Lerner did not create the marching orders. Sacrificing her at the alter of Obama is a typical DC exercise in missing the point. And even if she’s fired, how long till she lands in some cushy gig provided by some well-connected person.

      1. And even if she’s fired, how long till she lands in some cushy gig provided by some well-connected person.

        Within five minutes she’ll be on the phone with John Podesta of the Center for American Progress interviewing for a job with a $250,000/ year salary and full benefits package.

        1. Of course, but she should still be fired and publicly shamed.

          1. And prosecuted.

  11. to quote Peter Griffin: Boo Lois! Hooray Beer!

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