Faris Fink and the IRS follies

If taxpayers needed proof many in the U.S. government bureaucracy do not see themselves as public servants, Faris Fink provided it.

Fink is the Internal Revenue Service official the agency chose to testify before Congress concerning IRS waste of taxpayers’ money. Presumably, the idea was for Fink to put the best face possible on the agency’s actions.

If anything, he fell on his face.

Fink was a top official in the IRS division that staged an unnecessarily expensive conference in 2010. The event in Anaheim, Calif., cost $4.1 million, in part because the agency did not follow usual practice and negotiate price breaks for hotel rooms. One hotel’s managers apparently were so grateful for that that they upgraded rooms – some to “presidential suites” normally billed at up to $3,500 a night – for some IRS officials. Fink himself enjoyed a luxury suite.

It is uncertain whether he was staying in it when he starred in the “Star Trek” video IRS employees produced, also at taxpayer expense.

Questioned about the waste, Fink had this to say to lawmakers: “I think it is important to point out that in carrying out this 2010 meeting, we followed IRS and government procedures that were in place at the time.”

That’s right: A top IRS official explains that it’s all right to engage in rampant waste of taxpayers’ money, as long as it’s not illegal.

Fink, incidentally, portrayed “Mr. Spock”in the IRS “Star Trek” spoof. No doubt many of the hard-working Americans who paid for his shenanigans feel his attitude just does not compute.

Leaders of 18 Christian church denominations in Ohio are challenging the new national health care law. Their concerns, along with those of millions of other Americans, deserve a fair hearing.

Unfortunately, it appears President Barack Obama and others in his administration have no intention of allowing that.

Members of the Ohio Council of Churches last week expressed concern about “Obamacare” provisions they consider infringements upon religious freedom. One specific objection is the law’s requirement on contraceptives and what some Christians consider to be abortion-inducing drugs.

They are right. But it appears the White House already has decided not to discuss the point. The Health and Human Services Department insists it is trying to find a balance between “providing (insurance) coverage to women” and religious concerns.

That is not the point at all, of course. Health insurance for women would barely change if the church groups’ concerns are addressed. They have sought an honest dialogue – and been rebuffed.