back to article *taps on glass* Hellooo, IRS? Anyone in? Anyone guarding taxpayers' data from crooks? Hellooo?

With the partial US government shutdown showing no signs of letting up any time soon, senators are pressing treasury and tax officials on cybersecurity. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the ranking member on the Senate's Committee on Finance, on Friday wrote to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking for a …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    How did this guy get into Congress? He seems too sane to be a politician.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I wasn't living in Oregon when he got into office, but I have to admit that I keep voting for him. He is a rarity in Washington.

  2. DougS Silver badge

    There's a simple solution to this

    The IRS should simply not process any returns during the shutdown. That will guarantee it gets resolved VERY quickly, one way or another, because instead of 800K federal employees not getting paid, it will be 80 million people not getting refunds.

    Though if I was one of those federal employees, especially one of the "critical" ones being forced to work without pay like the TSA or air traffic control, I'd try to organize all my co-workers into going on strike. Let air traffic grind to a halt in the US when no TSA employees show up, and that will get it resolved even more quickly than if the IRS didn't process refunds (since most people can't file until end of the month because they have to wait to receive their W2)

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution to this

      I was one of those federal employees, especially one of the "critical" ones being forced to work without pay like the TSA or air traffic control, I'd try to organize all my co-workers into going on strike

      A far better thing for them would be to get another job. When this brouhaha ends government would not have the staff to work properly.

      1. Blake St. Claire

        Re: There's a simple solution to this

        That would be playing straight into Twitler's hand. Part of his base think the government is too big and they want to shrink it.

        As it is, eight out ten jobs are unfilled at the State Department[1] and half the "top jobs" there are also unfilled[2]. And they're not even trying to fill them AFAACT.

        People I know who who have been taking the State Dept. test tell me that a "passing score" – which is function of how many positions they are trying to fill – is very high these days, indicating that they're not hiring.A lot of jobs unfilled, but not hiring anyone to fill them? Hmmm. I'm not sure if that is the case elsewhere in government or not.

        [1] https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-state-department-vacancies/

        [2] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/11/state-department-empty-ambassador-to-australi/574831/

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's a simple solution to this

          > "Part of his base think the government is too big..."

          What was your first clue, Sherlock? Have you checked out the size of the Federal bureaucracy lately? It's been growing like a cancer for decades and even Trump's attempts to pare it back haven't done much good. And he's the ONLY one who even made an attempt.

          It used to be that liberals didn't like the government. When did that change to love?

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution to this

      A better solution would be to replace the income tax with other taxes that only require businesses to file with the IRS. It would have the advantage of minimal personal information is collected by the government on a regular basis. Many will complain about 'fairness' but any tax system is inherently unfair as some groups/products will have higher taxes than others.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution to this

        It is FAR easier for businesses to shift revenue and costs around than individuals, especially large businesses. So a local restaurant or machine shop will pay full freight on the taxes because they can't move their revenue around, but I'm sure you understand all those US companies that have an office in Bermuda aren't doing so because that corporate structure makes sense.

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution to this

      By law, feral employees cannot strike. If they do, then they can be fired without recourse or reinstatement. Reagen did this the air traffic controllers in the 80s. And there are some nasty other penalties if fired for striking.

      The bigger problem for many feral employees as this drags on is if the impact on the broader public is mild. The public might start asking the question 'Why do we need you, your agency, or function?'. So far for me, there has been no impact (will not say there will be none yet). If this holds for several weeks or months for enough people there may be a push to make the feral government permanently smaller and eliminate most of the furloughed employees' jobs.

      1. HereIAmJH

        Re: There's a simple solution to this

        So far for me, there has been no impact (will not say there will be none yet).

        Hmm, lots of tainted food recalls last year, seems like the perfect time to furlough food inspectors. And those farmers getting hammered by trade wars, they'll just have to wait for their token reimbursement. And the essential services they depend on for planning next years crops..... Not to worry, corporations will buy out all those 'small' farms that can't survive the uncertainly and low revenue. And the consumer will just have to live with the higher prices. Just hope you are in the higher income range where food is a smaller percentage of your budget.

        Having just finished the holiday season, there is ample proof that many jobs, both public and private, can be neglected for a week or two before seriously impacting their organizations. That doesn't mean those jobs aren't essential.

        I used to work with a guy, who like you, felt that most federal jobs were a waste of money. A self-proclaimed libertarian. So I asked him, your kids go to (socialist) public schools, right? Should we get rid of them? "No!" How about we privatize all the roads, you can pay tolls on your 40 mile daily commute. He didn't like that either. And the ultimate irony, last time I talked to him he was working a government job. Just because you don't see a direct benefit from public services doesn't mean you don't receive positive benefits. At least that is what I tell myself as 75% of my property taxes go to public schools that do not (and will not) affect me directly. I also have very limited ability to utilize national parks, but that doesn't mean I don't see the benefit of a well funded parks system.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution to this

        I think there's a very good chance the courts would strike those laws down as illegal based on the 13th amendment in the case of government workers who are forced to work without pay.

        As for the argument this somehow proves the government isn't necessary or is too big, that's pretty rich considering over half the number of affected employees were deemed "critical" and forced to work without pay. The work of the rest will just pile up and their departments will end up hiring temps to help them clear the backlog once the shutdown ends. The shutdown will end up costing the government more, and costing the economy. All because Trump doesn't want his feelings hurt by Rush.

      3. MrDamage

        Re: There's a simple solution to this

        So correct me if I'm wrong, what you are saying is that federal employees must go to work even if they are not being paid for said work? Is that not a direct contravention of the 13th amendment?

        I understand that this a moot point given that back-pay has been authorised, but given that they had to vote to authorise the back-pay, and 7 GOP cuntwaffles voted against it, surely any shutdown that demands workers still work before the back-pay is authorised, would be deemed unconstitutional.

        Edit: I started posting, and got distracted for a bit. DougS beat me to the punch about the 13th.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: There's a simple solution to this

          Not sure if authorizing back pay makes it a moot point, given that the employees have no way of knowing how long the shutdown will last. Getting back pay in July after a six month shutdown is probably not a viable solution for most. Sure, six months is very unlikely, but there's no way to know for sure and no way for these 'slaves' to influence the duration of their slavery. Except for one thing - going on strike.

          Given that the only way of influencing how long the shutdown lasts is by striking, courts upholding a law against striking just seems to be very unlikely to me. And anyway, if they strike, Trump would have to order them to be fired which I think someone as sensitive to public opinion (or rather Fox News opinion) as he would be reluctant to do. Even if he did, there's a 100% chance a court would issue a stay order preventing them from being fired while a decision of whether the law allowing their firing for striking was unconstitutional or not.

          The better question would be, how the heck do they hire any replacements for a position where they can't start paying you for an unknown period? Good luck with that!

      4. RussInKansas

        Re: There's a simple solution to this

        While true, the fact that it's legal to force people to work without pay, but illegal to strike over it, is more than a little telling, if you want to know how far this country has sunk.

      5. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution to this

        Badly washed lettuce kills more people per year than undocumented migrants, but you've stopped food inspections because you can't build a wall fence barrier to stop the migrants.

    4. GnuTzu Bronze badge

      Re: There's a simple solution to this -- Recipe for Failure

      Recipe for Failure:

      1. Treat workers like crap.

      2. Good workers go elsewhere.

      3. Security policy ignored or not understood by those who remain.

      4. Breach.

      5. Repeat above.

    5. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution to this

      Though if I was one of those federal employees, especially one of the "critical" ones being forced to work without pay like the TSA or air traffic control, I'd try to organize all my co-workers into going on strike

      Yeah, because that worked so well when they tried to pull that shit on Regan, and Trump is just so much more cuddly, right? Right? Oh....

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution to this

        The air traffic controllers went on strike for normal strike reasons like wanting more money or whatever. That's VERY different from going on strike because you are being forced to work without pay!

        The two situations have as much to do with one another as the difference between refusing to pay your bill at the restaurant because you feel you didn't get a large enough portion size vs refusing to pay your bill because you were served a bowl of soup with a dead rat in it.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Just a question

    If the US government isn't doing anything for 20 days, do the USAins get 20 days tax rebate?

    1. Wapiya
      Trollface

      Re: Just a question

      > If the US government isn't doing anything for 20 days, do the USAins get 20 days tax rebate?

      Sorry, this is government and not bitcoin. No proof of work required.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Just a question

      Well, no actual money is being saved because employees are still due to be paid. And even if that weren't true, there's still last year's unfunded tax cuts to pay for. And when you've worked that off, then you can get started on the deficit.

      Welcome to Republicans' idea of fiscal responsibility.

  4. veti Silver badge

    Opportunity

    There's one piece of confidential information that I for one would like to see stolen. It may be the only way we'll get to see Trump's tax returns.

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Opportunity

      It may be the only way we'll get to see Trump's tax returns.

      A pointless endeavour if ever there was one. What do you think they'd tell you? His personal taxes don't relate to his corporate filings. His companies will not all be under his publicly identifiable name, thus any trawl there is futile. Most of the cheddar isn't going to be in his name; it just isn't.

      Funny how a bunch of privacy obsessed people suddenly waiver on the issue when it involves the privacy of someone they don't like.

  5. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Governing America

    When it seems Americans cannot govern themselves, perhaps it is time authority was returned to London.

    1. Wapiya
      Pirate

      Re: Governing America

      >When it seems Americans cannot govern themselves, perhaps it is time authority was returned to >London.

      That would require at least the ability of London to govern itself.

      Currently a shaman high on his prefered weed throwing chicken bones would generate saner results.

      1. Rob

        Re: Governing America

        Amazing... when does the Shaman start? We can supply plenty of chicken bones, there is currently a backlog of decisions to be made in the UK government so the sooner they can start throwing bones the better (do I need to throw some to speed up the process?)

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Governing America

      I don't think Brits or Americans should be talking about their governments being better than a dog and pony show at this time. I don't remember a time when both gubbermints were so fucked up

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Governing America

      Think I've said this before - Trump was almost right - it should be "Make America Great *British* Again"!

      I've heard US Politicians talking about "this great democratic experiment of ours" ,,,, maybe they need to discover a Ammendment 50 and write a letter "Dear Queen Elizabeth, we tried the experiment and realized it isn't working so we are rescinding the declaration of independence"

    4. HereIAmJH

      Re: Governing America

      Or we could solve your Brexit woes by making you our 51st state. Glass houses?

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Governing America

        Or we could solve your Brexit woes by making you our 51st state. Glass houses?

        I'll get a shitload of downvotes for this, but please, by all means please do annex us.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Governing America

      London (Westminster) is also currently governed by crazies. Possibly Edinburgh (Holyrood) might be willing to step in as a caretaker governor in both cases?

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Governing America

        For a moment I read that as:

        "in basket cases"

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Governing America

        And Stormont (Northern Ireland) has had a shutdown for nearly two years, since 26th January 2017.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Governing America

          Stormont isn't shutdown, they just don't have any politicians in place to fuck things up. US is in the exact opposite position, the politicians are still there, the workers aren't.

    6. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Governing America

      If you followed British news, you would know that our government is not much better. We still have food inspections for now, because they are done by the EU and local councils. From April, I’m not so sure.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: Governing America

        After April too. Michael Gove (whose ministerial responsibility includes food) gave a categorical assurance in an interview broadcast on the morning of Jan 5th. No lowering of food standards, including on imports.

        Meaning of course a No to the US red lines on a trade deal. No US food standards, no US trade deal, and most of the brexit controversies are moot. In particular, Gove's assurance is precisely what the EU need to hear for the Irish Border Problem to go away.

        ... or would be, if only a government minister's assurances carried weight against brexit ideology.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Governing America

      When it seems Americans cannot govern themselves, perhaps it is time authority was returned to London

      Do I get healthcare instead of bankruptcy? I would vote for de=secession at that.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Social Security Number

    What a flippin joke. A number that wasn't initially supposed to be used for identification is now the weakest link in the identity chain... The gubbermint issues it on a little paper card(flimsy would be a compliment), you can't laminate it, it's against the law. If it gets lost, look here for replacing it, bad luck if you live in the many states that don't yet have the program...

    https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Social Security Number

      My dad got one for me when I was a kid, and promptly misplaced it. I've never seen it, though luckily he did keep track of what my SSN is. I've never once been in a situation where I needed that card, no employer has asked to see it, etc.

      So I don't see why you would care about laminating it or replacing it. It is completely useless.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Social Security Number

      Sorry to ruin your rant, but here are a few FACTS that contradict your statements:

      1) The social security CARD was not intended to be used as identification. The number was always intended to be used for identification, just that it was intended to be used for identification within the social security insurance system and not a universal number.

      2) It is not illegal to laminate your social security card. You are discouraged from laminating a modern social security card because it would obscure some of the security features, but it is not illegal.

      3) Not everything can be done online, and you can always walk yourself into any social security office and fill out the paperwork to get a replacement card. Even if you don't live in one of the states listed on the page to which you linked, you won't be able to use that online form to get a new card unless your card was issued or replaced in just the last couple of years.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Social Security Number

        Do you work for the SS administration??? Seems I hit a nerve ;-}

        So when the gubbermint says DO NOT it's not the same as breaking the law? Especially when you're 10yrs old reading your first SS card.

        I have the full form the my card came in back in 1970 something.

        YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD

        Detach the card below and sign it in ink immediately. Keep your card in a safe place to prevent loss or theft. " Do not laminate your card."

        If you don't live in big city usa, walking into an office may be a 200 mile trip in a lot of states, and good luck at those offices these days.

  7. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    WTF?

    Based in Cyprus!

    Meanwhile the newly incorporated Rumpo Construction Co. is tendering to syphon off the funds build the wall.

    /satire

  8. scrubber

    IRS

    How the heck did the feral employees at the IRS become a positive for the general public? This is some grandmaster level spinning.

  9. Bush_rat
    Mushroom

    We're 14 days into 2019 so far...

    And the US government has been closed for 24 days. I wonder if this is how the world ends, not with a bang or a whimper, just a huff and a tantrum.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: We're 14 days into 2019 so far...

      'Scuse an ignorant Brit failing to understand US government, but ...

      That shutdown 24 days ago was because Congress wouldn't give Trump his toy?

      That must be a Republican Congress. The incoming Democrats merely inherited the tantrum.

      Yesno?

      1. HereIAmJH

        Re: We're 14 days into 2019 so far...

        'Scuse an ignorant Brit failing to understand US government, but ...

        Shhh.... don't apply too much logic to politics.

        Prior to shutdown Republicans controlled Whitehouse, Senate, and House. Senate passed a bill to keep the gov't running; Whitehouse threatened to veto and House couldn't be bothered to vote on anything.

        After the shutdown; Democrats control House and have passed a bill similar to what Senate proposed prior to shutdown. Senate refuses to vote, even on the bill they passed almost unanimously prior. And Whitehouse throws a tantrum that Democrats won't do anything.

        Maybe we could get China to manufacture us a wall, they have experience. It could be Assembled in USA, like everything else, and be a much cheaper ecological disaster.

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