This is how hard-earned tax dollars have been spent by federal bureaucrats: hiring, paying, coddling — and fearing — employees who were NOT NEEDED. The Washington Examiner reports on a federal Inspector General investigation.

With too little work and too much free time, paralegal employees at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office were paid more than $5 million while doing nothing for four years.

Their bosses knew about it the whole time but did nothing about it because they feared a government employee union.

The 19 paralegal specialists were hired in 2008 to help alleviate a growing backlog of appeals at the patent office.

However, without more patent judges — who the paralegals were mostly dependent on for work — the employees found themselves with “insufficient workloads and considerable idle time during work hours,” according to the Department of Commerce inspector general.

“In the worst cases, paralegals seemed content to have extensive idle time while collecting full salaries and benefits, and [management] seemed to sit on their hands, anticipating the arrival of judges at some unknown date in the future,” the IG said.

Unconscionable. Who will be FIRED for this?