Many of us who grew up under the influence of those called The Greatest Generation learned the principle of "A Fair Day's Pay for a Fair Day's Work."
In 1937, while the nation was in the throes of Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt even used that phrase as a theme for an address regarding social justice towards workers.
It's hard then to have any respect for someone like Lois Lerner, who was head of the IRS's tax-exemption operations. That agency admitted targeting certain conservative groups applying for tax exempt status for close scrutiny based on their names or political allegiance.
Lerner refused to testify during the congressional hearing on the IRS mess several weeks ago, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The agency has placed her on administrative leave, but she is still being paid her salary, which, according to The National Review, averaged $185,000 from 2009 through 2012, plus $40,000 in bonuses. Her administrative leave, which amounts to a paid vacation, averages out to about $3557.69 a week, all on the taxpayers' dime.
Lerner has been part of the political cronyism game in Washington for some time. There were reported connections between President Obama's re-election campaign and Lerner's husband's law firm. And Lerner's history with the IRS of going after the GOP and conservative groups like the Tea Party predates the last presidential election.
In 1996, when Lerner headed the Enforcement Division of the Federal Elections Commission, she helped derail the campaign of Illinois conservative Al Salvi who was in a tight battle against Democrat U.S. Rep. Dick Durbin for a U.S. Senate seat, an election Durbin would win. The FEC hit Salvi's campaign committee with complaints related to a personal loan that Salvi made to his campaign in its final weeks.
After a number of challenges, the case was eventually dropped in 2000 when a judge ruled that Salvi's loan to his own campaign was completely legal. The case cost Salvi nearly $100,000 in legal fees. At one point, Salvi said Lerner made him an offer to drop the case if he would promise never to run for office again.
Lerner and the IRS section she headed are getting their due, and the investigation is far from over. Last Thursday, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks proposed legislation that would require federal workers who refuse to answer questions from Congress to lose their jobs. It also allows Congress to have a say on worker terminations. If three-fourths of the congressional body that heard the testimony finds that a federal worker willfully or knowingly gave false testimony during a hearing, then that employee would be fired.
We agree with Salvi that any federally appointed official who appears before a congressional hearing should not be hiding behind the Fifth. And a person like Lerner certainly shouldn't be enjoying a paid vacation on the taxpayer for refusing to tell the truth under oath.
She should be shown the door.
By Jim Zbick