Under the headline, "Yes, heads should roll at the IRS," Ezra Klein points out that, at the very least, "A number of IRS employees developed criteria that was politically biased both in appearance and in effect. They were reined in once by their superiors, and then they changed the criteria again, and had to be reined in a second time. Their actions called the fairness of the agency into question and kicked off a national scandal. Even if their intent was pure, they showed bad judgment, more than a bit of incompetence, and perhaps even a touch of insubordination."
That's reason enough to fire them, he concludes, "even if the process is difficult." He is absolutely right. But a larger question goes unexamined in his article. Is it too difficult to fire government employees who've been caught misbehaving in ways everyone agrees to be unacceptable?
It's an urgent question for anyone whose preferred policies presume a well-functioning bureaucracy staffed with capable civil servants to oversee and implement them. It behooves us to remember that the IRS and federal, state and local government encompass a lot of honest, hard-working people whose contributions are unsung and who hate scandal and incompetence as much as anyone. But having observed government at all levels for the last decade, I can't help but conclude that the majority of proficient public employees are seeing their agencies and reputations suffer because it is excessively difficult to terminate the worst of the worst.