Real, Genuine Accountability
By Rep. Kristi Noem
Trust in government is at an all-time low – and who could blame folks? Fraud, mismanagement, and abuse are rampant within government agencies. Taxpayer dollars are too often misspent by bureaucrats. And many people aren’t given basic courtesies when they interact with some federal employees. We need accountability in government – and I mean real, genuine accountability.
A few weeks ago, after speaking to the Watertown Rotary, a local radio commentator summarized my remarks like this: “If you don’t like the IRS, it probably doesn’t compare to Rep. Kristi Noem’s disgust with the agency.” It’s true – and the agency’s lack of accountability has a lot to do with that disgust. This should be a “service first” agency, but customer service at the IRS is appalling. During 2015, only 38 percent of callers could reach an IRS representative. Meanwhile, they targeted conservative groups and wasted millions of dollars on conferences and “Star Trek” parody videos.
Through the House, we’ve passed legislation to prevent the IRS from targeting taxpayers for political gain. We’ve passed a Taxpayer Bill of Rights. And we’ve passed legislation I wrote to stop the IRS from rehiring employees who have already been fired for misconduct. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats and President Obama blocked much of this agenda from moving forward.
Thankfully, we turned a new leaf with President Trump’s election. Alongside the previously mentioned reforms, one of the best ways to hold the IRS accountable is by drastically reducing its role. By simplifying the tax code, we’re hopeful most Americans’ tax returns could fit on a postcard once tax reform goes through. That leaves little room for the IRS to take advantage of hardworking South Dakotans.
But I have a problem with federal agencies beyond the IRS too. Today, a wanted felon can evade prosecution for months – even years – and yet somehow still receive a check from the Social Security Administration every 30 days or so. Let’s be clear: taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to make payments to people who are running from the law. Period.
I’ve introduced legislation to stop these payments, which is making quick progress in the House. This is not simply a fairness issue either. Staci Ackerman, the Executive Director for the South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association points out: “This bill will also limit [wanted felons and parole violators’] ability to avoid justice using taxpayer dollars to evade capture.” On top of it all, the legislation is estimated to save more than $2 billion.
I’ve also introduced legislation to bring greater integrity to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which is the country’s primary assistance program for low-income individuals and families. Today’s program often perpetuates poverty, rather than opportunity. With my legislation, we realign TANF with its core mission: offering upward mobility and the opportunity for greater financial independence to hardworking Americans.
Additionally, I’m fighting to make sure the Indian Health Service (IHS) is held responsible for the care it delivers. Whether it’s a drug testing program for employees or strengthening fiscal accountability measures, greater accountability will better keep the IHS focused on serving tribal communities.
I’ve also voted to expand whistleblower protections within the VA and streamline the process required to fire any VA employee, reforms President Trump signed into law. All of this only scratches the surface of what’s being done, which highlights just how broken the federal government is.
As we continue to work toward fixing agencies across the board, I encourage you to reach out to my office if you need assistance with the IRS, VA, Social Security, or any other federal bureaucracy. We can help you navigate the process and, when necessary, hold them directly accountable on your behalf.