Welcome back to work.
With a rare three-day weekend behind you, you may be reading these words on your office computer or perhaps on a mobile device en route to your workplace. After barbecuing, relaxing with loved ones, and remembering America’s fallen GIs, it may be tough to focus today on meetings, deadlines, and distracting colleagues who drop by to chat.
Too bad you are not Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS’s exempt-organizations office in Washington, D.C. She now has America’s easiest job. Having pleaded the Fifth Amendment before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee last Wednesday, Lerner was placed on administrative leave. Meanwhile, Congress will sort out her role in the burgeoning scandal over the IRS’s ideological profiling and political discrimination against at least 471 conservative groups and Tea Party organizations.
Since Lerner is on administrative leave, she will avoid her office. This means that she — unlike you — can sleep in until the crack of noon, savor breakfast in bed, visit the gym around 3 p.m., head home for a refreshing nap at 4:30 p.m., and then enjoy a long, boozy dinner. She can awaken on Wednesday morning with a throbbing hangover, roll over, and return to sleep. So, tonight: Waiter, make that one more bottle of Malbec!
And on Thursday: Rise, rinse, repeat.
But wait. There’s more.
Lerner is on administrative leave with pay.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice, Lerner signed intrusive letters to at least 15 groups that are suing the IRS for violating their First Amendment rights to free speech and their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection under law. ACLJ represents these outfits in litigation that will be filed presently.
Lerner’s letters improperly demanded the names of these groups’ donors, copies of materials distributed at their meetings, and even the content of speeches that these institutions hosted.
What is Lerner’s punishment for her abuse and intimidation?
Her just-concluded three-day weekend now becomes a continuous seven-day weekend, with her paychecks still landing in her bank account.
And what is Lerner’s ongoing reward for this total absence of effort?
Lerner will keep receiving her annual salary of $177,000. As Fox News Channel documented, this sum — which is $3,000 higher than the $174,000 paid to U.S. senators — translates to $3,403.84 each and every week. Compare this with the Social Security Administration’s 2011 average annual wage of $42,979.61, or $826.53 weekly. Thus, Lerner makes more than quadruple the typical earner’s pay, and now without even lifting a finger. As Yogi Berra might say: “Only in America.”
So, why is Lerner still getting paid, even though she is a ringleader of the biggest scandal to rock the IRS since Watergate?
One could argue that Lerner is innocent until proven guilty. However, that might merit her being separated from her duties without pay while all of this shakes out. If she truly did nothing wrong, all of her wages can be restored. If she violated IRS procedures or regulations, however, all of her undeserved gains will remain in the Treasury.
There is another explanation for why Lerner is getting paid to slumber and watch game shows. Her paychecks are hush money. Lerner’s uninterrupted compensation conveniently reminds her that she can keep paying her bills as long as she is a good soldier and keeps her mouth shut.
Did IRS higher-ups instruct Lerner to hammer conservative groups? Who else at Treasury knew about this? Did Lerner discuss this with anyone at the White House? What did Obama know, and when did he know it? Perhaps Lerner can answer these questions. But as long as she stays quiet, Washington’s pillars of power will be less likely to buckle and fall.
I stand with you, Obama’s approval of Lerner’s paychecks signals. So, Lois, stand with me. Of course, this assumes that America’s absentee-landlord-in-chief is aware of this arrangement. That may be an assumption too far.
Well, dear reader, it’s back to work for you. Unless you are on staff at National Review Online, your boss does not pay you to read my words — no matter how flattered I am that you are doing so.
But before you turn to your duties, here’s one more thing: Lois Lerner is enjoying the first of many days off with all the joys of a six-figure salary paid for with taxpayer dollars. So, as you slave away, you are financing Lois Lerner’s still-lucrative and newly undemanding lifestyle.
Have a productive day. Lois Lerner is counting on you.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.