Counterfeit feds

Monday - 5/12/2014, 5:18am EDT

Should the government be selling postage stamps, running parks (Disneyland vs. Mammoth Cave), collecting taxes? Even printing money?

Could the private sector take over the operation of your agency and — maybe — make things work better and cost less.

Every now and then, some politician or president decides that privatization is the way to go. The Clinton administration farmed out tens of thousands of federal jobs during the 1990s to cut the number of government employees.

Since then, there have been efforts to privatize parts of the IRS, the U.S. Postal Service and other agencies. So how would that work in practice?

Friday's column talked about privatization. Lots of interesting comments which you can see here.

The column also prompted this email from an IRS employee who worries about scam artists posing as federal workers. He said:

Mike, we could be looking at a lot of stuff like that for sure. But can you trust the private sector more or less than the current fed? I just wanted to relate to you a story that happened this week. I'm not looking for a pat on the back, I felt I was just doing my job.

Late Tuesday I got a call from one of the guys in my golf league who is an accountant. He had a 70-year-old lady on the other line, because she had someone on the phone claiming to be from the IRS threatening to throw her in jail if she didn't pay $70 she owed from tax years 2006 through 2012. I asked my friend to ask the lady if she had received any notices? She said no, didn't even know she owed.

We don't and cannot threaten people like that and certainly wouldn't bother that lady for $750 dollars! I knew from the get-go it was a scam. I told my friend, who had the lady on another phone to ask his name and see if he hangs up. He stated his name made another threat saying the sheriff will be out there to take her to jail within the next 2 hours. I told my friend to calm the lady down that this was a scam and to save that number and come into our walk-in office and report the number. A neighbor called the number and nobody answered it. They then goggled the number and it is under IRS scrutiny. I advised the lady to come in and get a history of her account so she knows she doesn't owe and can then know this is just a scam trying to steal retirees cash. She thanked me through my buddy. I went home really upset over slime bags trying to steal from vulnerable retirees. So the point of all this is that, if Congress does privatize a lot of services, can you trust them? I feel you can trust the fed on the front line dealing with the public — but those overseeing the agency is another story. Unfortunately, we get lumped in with those people."

The IRS got a reputation awhile back for having mean collectors. Turns out the vast majority of them were private bill collectors. Congress forced the IRS to turn over hard-to-collect debts to take-no-prisoners, meaner-than-a-junk-yard-dog private collectors who worked on commission. Congress finally ended the program (this was the second time it was tried, crashed and burned). But it will probably come up again. Stay tuned...


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Seeing the face of Jesus in a piece of burnt toast — or any human likeness — is completely normal, according to a new study. Because of a phenomenon called "face pareidolia," the human brain is "uniquely wired" to see human faces in patterns and designs.

(Source: Time magazine)


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Q&A with the experts: Retirement, benefits and TSP
Last month, Tammy Flanagan, senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning, joined Federal News Radio's senior correspondent, Mike Causey, to answer feds' questions as part of an exclusive online chat. The experts fielded dozens of questions from readers -- but couldn't get to all them. So, Federal News Radio went back to the experts to answer another round of questions for readers. In this special Q&A, find the experts' take on everything from the best date to retire this year and what happens to insurance premiums when you retire to whether the Thrift Savings Plan plans to offer in-plan conversions.

Postal service had $1.9 billion quarterly loss
The U.S. Postal Service's $1.9 billion quarterly loss marks the 20th time in the last 22 quarters that the agency posted a loss.

10 USPS workers charged with workers' compensation fraud
Ten U.S. Postal Service employees are charged with allegedly exaggerating the injuries they incurred on the job to collect additional workers' compensations benefits.