IRS Star Trek Video

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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby jcolvin2 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:11 pm

Cathulhu wrote:As to budget stupidities, the biggest one I ever saw was when Mark Everson (during his brief tenure before his sexual indiscretions brought him down) sent each and every IRS employee a Christmas greeting with his picture on it.


I thought the scandal only became public after Everson left the IRS to become head of the American Red Cross, though if I recall correctly, his paramour may have followed him from the IRS to the Red Cross.

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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby The Observer » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:12 pm

Cathulhu wrote:As to budget stupidities, the biggest one I ever saw was when Mark Everson (during his brief tenure before his sexual indiscretions brought him down) sent each and every IRS employee a Christmas greeting with his picture on it. In color. (One person said it cost about 50k, but I cannot confirm that.) Some may still be used as dartboards by old-timers.


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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby wserra » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:20 pm

The Observer wrote:Did anyone's sister get bitten by the møøse?


No, but we did sack those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby Cathulhu » Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:25 am

Hey, if you want to waste 15 minutes, even this one is better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iadT8uL2GME


It was shot right after the first season of STNG, which is why the Ferengi energy whips we saw in that season were parodied. Sadly, they never showed up again.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby The Observer » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:18 am

jcolvin2 wrote:I thought the scandal only became public after Everson left the IRS to become head of the American Red Cross, though if I recall correctly, his paramour may have followed him from the IRS to the Red Cross.


You are correct that the scandal erupted while Everson was at the Red Cross. I have seen nothing that links his paramour to having a career at the IRS. From what I see, Everson met her at the Red Cross. There has been speculation about Everson being involved with an IRS employee but there has been no verification of that.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby The Observer » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:31 pm

And now Captain Kirk weighs in with his opinion.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby Cathulhu » Fri Mar 29, 2013 1:51 pm

Well, you gotta admit, even the Star Trek commercials are a hell of a lot better than this! I laughed my ass off at a line ten seconds from the end (It's only 88 seconds long) that I swear I've wanted to hear Shatner say for decades. One of the Delta Green team sent it to me, and it's pretty awesome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fHBI_IaXv8
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby Burnaby49 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 5:36 am

Now Cracked.com has picked up on it and is joining in the mockery. Their comment about the $60,000 cost is:

We asked Cracked sketch director/producer Adam Ganser to eyeball the IRS' sketches and break down where the $60,000 went. The IRS probably spent somewhere around $8,000 to $10,000 on the Star Trek set (as renting a sound stage with a professional crew gobbles money). For the Gilligan's Island parody, the IRS obviously paid in set design, what with the indoor sand and (what appears to be) custom-painted panels. Here's the rest of Adam's estimate:

"Maybe $10K to $15K or less for the two sets? And another $10K to $15K for crew (at the most)? My guess is they got taken by an editor and/or director in terms of costs. And they had to pay all their employees double/triple time to be in the videos."

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"There's probably a lot of employee-related costs that were managed by an accountant who doesn't understand production. They got ripped off somewhere. Maybe they overpaid everybody. As far as how much [these videos] should have cost? [We] could have easily made both of these for $15K total, or less. And we probably could have made both of these in a day to a day and a half."

http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/the- ... u-2460000/
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby fortinbras » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:11 pm

[Moderator: fortinbras' post was deleted due to partisan political references used in his question. Again, this is a reminder that political topics are off-limits and not to be the subject of a thread - The Observer]

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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby Famspear » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:45 pm

The "cost" figures cited in news reports are always suspect.

The true cost of any action is the value of whatever you have to give up in order to take that action.

We hardly ever know, when a government agency or news media source "reports" that such and such an event has "cost" the taxpayers such and such an amount, whether it's accurate.

We have to understand the difference between variable costing and absorption costing. These are accounting concepts. In variable costing of an event, the only relevant costs are those that are incurred with respect to that event -- the costs that would NOT have been incurred had the event not taken place. Variable costing is the correct method of accounting when you're talking about what it cost the taxpayers for the IRS to produce a Star Trek video, or what it cost the taxpayers for [redacted].

By contrast, absorption costing includes a pro-rata share of the non-variable costs, the fixed costs if you will. For example, if the IRS employees who particiated in the video were paid their regular salaries for the time they spent working on the videos, and they would have been paid those salaries whether working on the videos or working on "regular stuff" at their desks, etc., then such costs are non-variable costs. These costs are not costs of producing the video -- they're not variable costs. Similarly, the costs to operate [redacted] -- if they would have been incurred anyway during the specific, same time period in which [redacted] took place -- are not costs of the "show."

Now, the benefits (whatever they might have been) of the real work that didn't get done by the IRS personnel while making the Star Trek video -- those would have been some costs of producing the video. [Sentence redacted]

You don't use a hammer to do the job of a saw. Both are tools, but each is "valid" as a tool only in the context of the task for which it is designed and intended. Accounting and economic concepts (such as absorption costing and variable costing) are also tools. Absorption costing is the correct tool when you're talking about how much it costs an enterprise or agency to operate over a period of time -- including both variable and fixed costs. Variable (or "direct") costing is the correct tool when you're talking about how much a particular event or operation costs.

The truth is, when the news media issues theses reports, we often don't know whether the "cost" figures they are using really reflect the proper amounts.

Edit: Famspear's formulation of the opportunity cost theory of value:

The cost of any action or forebearance is the value of the best alternative in the set of mutually exclusive alternatives applicable thereto.

[Moderator: As fine and technical as Famspear's response was, unfortunately it made references to a controversial political event. In order to preserve the answer as much as possible, since I believe that it has a worthwhile explanation, I redacted the political references. Famspear, you are welcome to re-edit your post to reflect what you were trying to convey, as long as you don't make any reference to a specific event or politico. - The Observer]

Edit: Hmmm. I know we aren't supposed to be having political debates or discussions in this forum, but I was unaware that we're not even supposed to "make any reference to a specific [controversial political] event". My references were not intended as "political" references -- I was using the example posted by fortinbras and the Star Trek video example. Maybe we need to have some more discussion about what is or is not the rule here in Quatloos. -- Famspear
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby Cathulhu » Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:25 pm

I gotta nitpick here--to my shame, I've been in IRS audio training tapes. When you get the assignment, you only get your regular salary, not overtime. But any travel involved will up the price.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby Kestrel » Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:40 pm

Famspear wrote:We have to understand the difference between variable costing and absorption costing. These are accounting concepts. In variable costing of an event, the only relevant costs are those that are incurred with respect to that event -- the costs that would NOT have been incurred had the event not taken place. Variable costing is the correct method of accounting when you're talking about what it cost the taxpayers for the IRS to produce a Star Trek video.

By contrast, absorption costing includes a pro-rata share of the non-variable costs, the fixed costs if you will. For example, if the IRS employees who particiated in the video were paid their regular salaries for the time they spent working on the videos, and they would have been paid those salaries whether working on the videos or working on "regular stuff" at their desks, etc., then such costs are non-variable costs. These costs are not costs of producing the video -- they're not variable costs.

You've omitted one important factor: Opportunity Cost, what one has to forego to get or do something else. Opportunity cost comes with a dollar figure when the alternative activity causes production delays, or requires someone else to be paid to do the primary activity.

Did these IRS employees produce the video during working hours, or after hours on their own time? If they did it during working hours, was it because they had absolutely nothing else to do and so they would have produced nothing for their salaries, or did they have to set aside their regular work to have fun producing the video?

How many taxpayers would have preferred that these IRS employees took the time they spent on the video, and instead applied that time to examining tax returns in a diligent and unhurried fashion, so that they could produce timely, accurate results?
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby LaVidaRoja » Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:52 pm

Since all of the employees appearing in the Star Trek video were managers and above, This was likely as productive use of their time as anything else they might have been doing on the job.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby Cathulhu » Sat Mar 30, 2013 7:02 pm

LaVidaRoja wrote:Since all of the employees appearing in the Star Trek video were managers and above, This was likely as productive use of their time as anything else they might have been doing on the job.


Sadly, I must agree. When the Boose-Allen study was done in the 90's, they noted that the people actually doing the work (agents, officers, technicians) had four layers of local management over them (group manager, division chief, District Director, Service Center Director.) The recommendation, which was not cheap, was to remove a layer of management. The response? They added another layer of management--branch managers between the groups and division chief.

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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby Famspear » Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:44 pm

Kestrel wrote:....You've omitted one important factor: Opportunity Cost, what one has to forego to get or do something else.....


No, I specifically mentioned examples of opportunity cost -- the same kinds of examples you mentioned; my examples were removed by another editor. I also gave the definition of opportunity cost.

EDIT: My references were not intended as "political" references; I was simply illustrating the concepts of variable versus absorption costing and the concept of opportunity cost by using examples already provided by other contributors. I want to point out that The Observer and others who have been working to keep politics out of the forum have burdened themselves with an unenviable task, and I thank them for their efforts.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby The Observer » Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:52 am

Famspear wrote:Edit: Hmmm. I know we aren't supposed to be having political debates or discussions in this forum, but I was unaware that we're not even supposed to "make any reference to a specific [controversial political] event". My references were not intended as "political" references -- I was using the example posted by fortinbras and the Star Trek video example. Maybe we need to have some more discussion about what is or is not the rule here in Quatloos. -- Famspear


I understand that you were not responding to any particular political reference but were trying to address the underlying point raised by the original question. That is why your response mostly survived. It was unfortunate that the question raised was trying to drag a particular political viewpoint into the discussion rather than focus on that underlying point to the enlightenment of all. Any of us with a political ox to gore - and I will readily admit that I have many to gore - could have found examples with which to skewer the opposing viewpoint. But that isn't the point of Quatloos; people simply need to refrain from from trying to bring in their oxen through the back door. The original question could have been constructed to avoid any reference to particular political event.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby The Observer » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:03 am

Cathulhu wrote:Sadly, I must agree. When the Boose-Allen study was done in the 90's, they noted that the people actually doing the work (agents, officers, technicians) had four layers of local management over them (group manager, division chief, District Director, Service Center Director.) The recommendation, which was not cheap, was to remove a layer of management. The response? They added another layer of management--branch managers between the groups and division chief.


That is not what happened in the field offices. Prior to the restructuring based on the Booz-Allen plan, the management chain consisted of group managers, branch chiefs, and the division chief reporting to the District Director. The Booz-Allen plan removed the branch chiefs and division chief, replaced them with territory managers reporting directly to the Area Director. So a level of management was removed.
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Re: IRS Star Trek Video

Postby The Observer » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:07 am

LaVidaRoja wrote:Since all of the employees appearing in the Star Trek video were managers and above, This was likely as productive use of their time as anything else they might have been doing on the job.


Everyone in the video were either executives (SB/SE Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner for example) or members of their staffs (such as staff assistants or analysts). There were no managers involved in the video (meaning front-line or middle management). Whether their time doing something else would have been as wasteful is debatable, but certainly there would be no congressional investigations and hearings going on if they had been doing their jobs.
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