Since the sequester – reducing the increase in the 2013 budget, which means the federal government is still spending more in 2013 than it did in 2012 – thousands of public employees have had to experience furloughs, temporary unpaid leave for employees. Some civil servants are sick and tired of it and have decided to hold protests.
The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents workers for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), organized nationwide protests Tuesday arguing that the sequestration would eliminate approximately $600 million from the IRS budget this year. Due to the reduction in the rate of spending increases, 100,000 employees will be furloughed starting May 24.
According to protest organizers, the IRS garners 93 percent of the revenue used to fund the federal government. Demonstrators said each $1 invested in the tax collection agency brings in a $7 return, which they say will mean diminished revenues and a heightened deficit because operations will not reach maximum capacity for five days between May 24 and Aug. 30 – an additional two days are being discussed for sometime in August or September.
One of the protests took place in downtown Manhattan, where IRS workers yelled out chants and held neon-colored placards. Some of the talking points included taxpayers experiencing the impacts due to longer wait times for assistance and fewer audits. Workers say they will also take a financial hit because they will miss a week’s worth of pay.
Union officials also make the case that the freeze on most of the hiring at the IRS will hurt the agency’s efficiency and duties to bring in more revenue for the Treasury Department.
“Sequestration is undercutting the ability of IRS employees to provide the help the public wants and needs,” NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley at the large crowd in New York’s Federal Plaza, the organization’s website states. “The reality is that tax help is provided by IRS employees year-around. Victims of identity theft will have to wait even longer for their refunds because you can’t come to work to help. I bet the tax cheats and tax evaders are dancing in the streets.”
Frank Heffler, president of NTEU Chapter 47, told the crowd of more than 1,200 that the sequestration is hurting the country. “We want to work. Unpaid furlough days are bad for employees and the country.”
On average, IRS employees will lose between $160 and $400 each day. CNN spoke with an IRS auditor, who has performed her line of work for more than three decades. The woman explained that she lives paycheck-to-paycheck, despite earning much more than the $42,000 minimum salary for an auditor.
One man, who also works as an auditor, said he was forced to switch to a cheaper mobile phone plan and has cut back on his expenses while putting more money into savings. During his time off, he plans to get in touch with members of Congress and urge them to start acting.
Since March, there have been many dubious claims that the decrease in the increased rate of spending would lead to job losses of more than 170 million, according to California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters – even though there are about 150 million workers in the United States.
“If sequestration takes place, that’s going to be a great setback. We don’t need to be having something like sequestration that’s going to cause these job losses — over 170 million jobs that could be lost,” explained Waters.
The sequester has been depicted as a move to cut nearly $1 trillion over a 10-year period. However, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the sequestration is actually a $110 billion increase during the same period.
“Whatever the case, it is hard to characterize a $110 billion increase as a draconian cut that will bring America and its federal government to its knees,” wrote Paul Roderick Gregory of Forbes magazine.
Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul iterated the same kind of remarks in an interview with a local news station in February.
“I think the sequester has to go through,” said the Tea Party favorite. “People need to realize the sequester is not really a cut in spending. It’s a cut in the rate of growth of spending.”