IRS’s sequestration “pain,” Part II


Yesterday, Tea Party Patriots fact-checked a CNN article highlighting difficulties at the IRS allegedly caused by sequestration. Today, we’ll examine the survey results the National Taxpayers Employees Union (NTEU) used to claim sequestration is causing harm at the IRS, and thus a lack of services for the American people.

First, as pointed out in the prior post, the survey suffers from selection bias – meaning, it relied on people responding to it, as opposed to a scientific poll, which looks across the spectrum of people who may like, dislike, or be indifferent to sequestration. Additionally, the survey went to non-IRS employees, meaning results ostensibly about the IRS are going to include input from employees not actually working for the IRS.

Second, the results are very vague. Here are a few examples:

48 percent say critical work is not getting done [in their offices].

74 percent [of employees] have had to cut back on necessities.

43 percent [of employees] are delaying medical treatment.

Never is “critical work” defined for readers of the survey, nor what employees consider “necessities” in their personal lives. And while “delaying medical treatment” is a scary way to phrase things, that could mean something as simple as cutting back on chiropractor visits.

The vagueness continues in discussing how “the majority of our members would have difficulty paying for basics, including housing, food and utilities.”

82 percent will have difficulty paying rent/mortgage, utilities, and food expenses.

29 percent will have difficulty paying for child care, school tuition and other educational expenses.

19 percent already have a spouse who had lost his/her job or suffered a pay cut.

Ironically, the 19% whose spouse has suffered a lost job or a pay cut probably should blame the bad economy, not sequestration…

Towards the end of the survey, it is finally acknowledged that more employees than those at the IRS were surveyed. However, those employees are surveyed from a first-person perspective – anecdotes and personal stories rule the day, not actual data giving the full picture. Some examples of the three questions followed by personal responses:

If an additional five percent cut were made at my agency, the American public will suffer from the cutbacks in the following ways:

A great deal of destructive pests and diseases will slip into the country wreaking economic havoc in California and the rest of the country.

Critical program such as WIC and SNAP may not meet the needs of potential eligible applicants.

Food safety would become an issue. Public notice of recalls would be affected.

If workload is increasing at your agency, what types of choices are being made in order to get the work done?

Tremendous pressure put on employees to do more with less. Decreased level of service. Inadequate training. Poor quality.

Employees consistently work through lunch. They do not take breaks and stay late (unauthorized overtime with no pay).

People are just working harder, but it is taking its toll.

What would you like the public to know about how budget cuts are impacting you, your family and the public?

A furlough of one day per week for up to 22 weeks will result in my son having to withdraw from college. I will not be able to afford tuition/books/fees/room and board. This is not speculative. These are cold, hard personal budget facts worked out on paper.

It’s extremely tough being head of household and not having received a raise in 3 years at an entry level GS 4 position.

I just wish the media would understand federal employees are not overpaid; we’re not lazy and we’re not the enemy.

In short, this survey is unprofessional, biased, relies far too much on selection bias and personal anecdotes, and has other large flaws in it. CNN never should have reported on it, as it gives far too much credence to the survey and its so-called “results.”