This week, the U.S. House will consider ten bills aimed at curbing government abuse, covering topics such as the IRS’ involvement in health care, customer service standards for government employees and the privacy of an individual’s tax records, among other issues. Under the banner of Stop Government Abuse Week, lawmakers are pushing legislation intended to address many of the recent scandals, including IRS targeting, lavish conference spending and paid leave for officials under investigation.

The timing couldn’t be better. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week put Americans’ approval of Congress at 83 percent, and 61 percent of those polled believe the country is on the wrong track. In a recent Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans think the IRS “frequently abuses its powers.”

Some of the bills may seem a bit narrow, but taken as a whole, the package represents a step forward toward reining in the inevitable abuses from a growing leviathan. Most Americans probably don’t realize it’s close to impossible to put a federal employee on unpaid leave, even if the employee is under investigation for wrongdoing (a practice addressed by Government Employee Accountability Act, H.R. 2579). Better understood is the degree to which many federal jobs don’t depend on performance, even service-related positions (which the Government Customer Service Improvement Act, H.R. 1660, looks to rectify).

H.R. 2565, or the Stop Targeting Our Politics IRS Act, introduced by Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, goes even further, allowing the IRS to terminate any employee who uses their position for political purposes. Two bills deal with conference spending, one designed to end IRS conferences until the agency implements reforms recommended by the inspector-general to avoid abuse of funds, and a second that increases transparency for conference spending for all agencies and limits the number of conferences per year.

For anyone not employed by the federal government, these steps should seem perfectly reasonable. The private sector experienced tough layoffs, budget trimming and reduced pay during the recession, as did many state and local governments. And private sector employees are constantly evaluated on their performance. It’s time for federal agencies to use the same standards, from cutting wasteful spending to increasing accountability.

One of the more interesting bills is the Citizen Empowerment Act, H.R. 2711. The recent NSA scandal has many Americans considering how much government intrusion is “too much.” Many might be surprised to know that, outside the NSA, federal agencies complete more than 939,000 adjudicatory proceedings against citizens each year, as opposed to only 95,000 court proceedings, making Americans 10 times more likely to be tried by an agency. The Citizen Empowerment Act aims to curb any potential agency abuse by giving citizens the right to record any interaction with an agency official, and would require the official to notify them of that right.

Perhaps the easiest bill to support in the package is H.R. 2768, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, introduced by Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill. The bill requires the IRS Commissioner to ensure all IRS employees are familiar with the rights of taxpayers, including the right to to confidentiality, the right to be informed, the right to be assisted and the right to privacy, among others. Recent scandals aside, this should be standard practice for an agency that can put someone in jail, levy fines, and close businesses for violations of a tax code that is estimated to be 73,954 pages long.

A full list of the bills can be found here. It’s a bit sad that we’ve hit the point where restoring confidence in government means stopping abuse rather than thinking of better ways to proactively help, but regardless, the House should be commended for taking these simple steps. Hopefully their colleagues in the Senate will listen.

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