Good Enough For Government Work?

Ezra wants the IRS to clean house:

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 is reason enough to fire people, even if the process is difficult.

Daniel Foster doubts that Lois Lerner, director of the misbehaving IRS office, will get axed:

Statistically speaking, the firing of a federal employee is a rare event. A Cato Institute study showed that in one year, just 1 in 5,000 non-defense, civilian federal employees was fired for cause. A widely cited analysis by USA Today found that in FY 2011, the federal government fired just 11,668 out of 2.1 million employees (excluding military and postal workers). That’s a “separation for cause” rate of 0.55 percent, roughly a fifth the rate in the private sector.

And the firing of employees who fit Lerner’s profile is rarer still. Lerner is very much a “white-collar” employee, and the same analysis found that blue-collar employees (such as food-service workers) were twice as likely to be fired.

Conor Friedersdorf zooms out:

There are many more examples [of misbehaving employees] at the local, state, and federal level. None so far has prompted Democrats or progressives to acknowledge that public employees are so well-protected that the ability to run well-functioning institutions is sometimes being compromised. In one way, the IRS controversy is sure to be unrepresentative since it is getting so much more press than almost any other act of wrongdoing by federal employees. But it will afford us a high-profile opportunity to watch the process play out.