Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 1, 2010

THOSE IMAGINARY IRS AGENTS.... Not quite two weeks ago, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on Fox News with a new warning for those concerned about health care reform:

"Ten billion dollars and 16,000 new IRS agents to make sure that everyone buys the health insurance that the government decides you have to have."

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) went a little further, saying there will be 16,500 new IRS agents, each of whom will be "armed."

Boehner and Paul were blatantly and shamelessly lying. FactCheck.org looked into this and concluded that it's a "wildly inaccurate claim." The Affordable Care Act, the researchers concluded, "requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation."

The IRS' main job under the new law isn't to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them -- starting this year -- which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer's contribution toward their workers' health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies -- in the form of refundable tax credits -- to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.

The law does make individuals subject to a tax, starting in 2014, if they fail to obtain health insurance coverage. But IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee March 25 that the IRS won't be auditing individuals to certify that they have obtained health insurance. He said insurance companies will issue forms certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. "We expect to get a simple form, that we won't look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage," Shulman said. "So there's not going to be any discussions about health coverage with an IRS employee." In any case, the bill signed into law (on page 131) specifically prohibits the IRS from using the liens and levies commonly used to collect money owed by delinquent taxpayers, and rules out any criminal penalties for individuals who refuse to pay the tax or those who don't obtain coverage. That doesn't leave a lot for IRS enforcers to do.

How'd this nonsense get started? Apparently, some Republican staffers on the Hill concluded that it may "may" be necessary for the IRS to add "as many as 16,500" additional employees to enforce the law. The GOP staffers apparently made up the number, based on bizarre assumptions.

From there, Boehner, Paul, and other assorted Republican voices on the Hill and on Fox News' payroll (that means you, Brian Kilmeade) began presenting this foolish claim -- and adding ridiculous details -- to Americans as if it were fact.

Is it any wonder the public is confused about the policy when professional liars have been spreading garbage like this?

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

All part of a concerted effort to make (the less informed among us) fear this new program, and label it as "another Government program that takes away your money/freedom." The fact that it does not--that it actually helps people financially--(and medically, for that matter) necessarily goes against their decades-old sermons that Government is bad and is out to get you.

If it works as advertised, they're toast, and they know it. If it can be shown that Government is not bad, that it can do good (notwithstanding numerous everyday examples in normal life), then their mantra is also toast. They're just continuing the 'big crazy of 2009' (as a Hill staffer recently referred to it) on into this year.

Posted by: terraformer on April 1, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

I don't watch Fox, I read plenty of progressive blogs like this one, and I never until right now saw that 16K number questioned or explained. Why did not the White House or Congressional leadership slap this one down hard when it was being parroted so relentlessly? I heard it over and over again, and because no one every contradicted it, I accepted it as true.

Posted by: ChicagoRob on April 1, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Fertilizer for Christian militias...

Any bets on which IRS building gets blown up first?

Posted by: koreyel on April 1, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Scare the sheeple so they'll vote in the Savior Republicans in Novemeber.

I yelled "You Are Lying" at Fox News in our employee break room down here in AL and you should have seen the eyes widen. No one spoke. I was not affirmed, needless to say.

The masses are buying what Fox News is selling and their denial and unwillingness to corroborate sources will drive them to make deadly mistakes at the voters booth.

And the useless corporate-bought-and-sold GOP leadership wins to continue their quest to debase and undermine democracy for all Americans and sell out the best nation in the world just so a few individuals can live higher up the hog.

Arg (with emphasis)

Posted by: * on April 1, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

During the Cheney reign it was, "Deficits don't matter."

Now it is, "Facts don't matter."

Posted by: DAY on April 1, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

The part about adding 16,500 armed IRS agents is in the same section of the bill as the provision that sets up "death panels" to decide whether to euthanize grandma -- the section that's written in invisible ink.

If we look hard enough we'll also find a section that allows the IRS agents to use waterboarding on people suspected of medicare fraud (Republicans consider waterboarding to be torture if it's used on white people.) I'm sure there's another section in there with something about babies being fed to polar bears.

But seriously, isn't there a single journalist left in this country who can challenge Boener and the rest of the Republicans to point out where in the bill these provisions are?


Posted by: SteveT on April 1, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a solution? Censure? They're not just going to stop lying out of the kindness of their hearts. Unless they are somehow held accountable, they'll continue to lie.

Posted by: doubtful on April 1, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I heard it over and over again, and because no one every contradicted it, I accepted it as true.

It's been out for about 4 or 5 days. Not knowing how old you are, here's some advice from an AARP aged person. Have patience and believe nothing you hear or read. I consider anything I hear or read coming from the horses ass. It was actually contradicted in a Congressional Committee hearing by the IRS Commissioner in a matter of a couple of days. Read IRS Commish under oath as the horses mouth.

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 1, 2010 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

The public isn't confused;

Republican on TV: Run for the hills! The IRS will hire 16,000 new agents with guns!
Democrat on TV: *crickets*.


That's a lot of things but confusion isn't one of them.

Posted by: Observer on April 1, 2010 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

1. This is pretty much the same system we've got in Massachusetts (sorry Mitt, it just is).

2. Does this mean the IRS won't be looking at my application for the Health Care Enforcement Officer job?

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on April 1, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you should be noticing that Democrats don't spend much time defusing out right lies. A lie that is unopposed is often accepted as the truth. Maybe Democrats on the TV machine need to do a better job of calling Republicans liars.

As one of those people maybe you should start.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 1, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

The same FOX News [and Conservatives] that had no qualms with the Patriot Act.

Posted by: MDL on April 1, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

A refresher course for the political neophyte, Steve Benen...

"Is it any wonder the public is confused about the policy when professional liars have been spreading garbage like this?"

Thank you Steve for pointing out our success...

As a member of the rich wing of the republican party, I proudly acknowledge that:
- we lie
- we know that we lie
- our corporate media will never seriously call us on our lies
- our lies are very successful in meeting our objectives
- we will continue to lie

Our objectives, that we achieve with our lies are:
- to extract emotional invectives from our reich wing base who will never doubt that our lies are the truth
- to confuse the hell out of the 30-40% of the public who do not stay seriously informed
- to cause a large percentage of that 30-40% to reach a conclusion that "both sides lie" so the democrats must be lying as well
- to piss off the progressives who do learn what is true but can't convince anyone else

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on April 1, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Apparently, some Republican staffers on the Hill concluded that it may "may" be necessary for the IRS to add "as many as 16,500" additional employees to enforce the law. The GOP staffers apparently made up the number, based on bizarre assumptions."

No wonder Boehner calls them "punks"--they'll assume the position for anyone.

Posted by: Steve P on April 1, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

So if you don’t have group health insurance, you don’t buy individual insurance, and you have the sort of work where you don’t have income withheld, what is the IRS empowered to do in order to collect the tax that you owe? Send sternly-worded letters?

Posted by: Seth Gordon on April 1, 2010 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

So if you don’t have group health insurance, you don’t buy individual insurance, and you have the sort of work where you don’t have income withheld, what is the IRS empowered to do in order to collect the tax that you owe? Send sternly-worded letters?

Yes, but only if you've marked the check-off box authorizing them to take the cost of postage out of your refund.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on April 1, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

How'd this nonsense get started?

The way this nonsense always gets started. I heard Limbaugh blathering on and on about 12000 new IRS agents needed for the reform bill the Monday that healthcare passed. It's only reasonable that 1) prominent Congressional Republicans grab the baton from El Rushbo and 2) the number of agents balloon.

Posted by: Bobo Teh Clown on April 1, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ya know what is truly sad about this, the fact that this was debunked right on CSPAN. These idiots whining about transparency and the health care debate seem to ignore the fact that CSPAN had over 3000 hours of coverage and it wasn't transparent because of a few instances regarding caucus meetings where a few shady deals were made. I doubt anyone watched all 3000+ hours or even 3 hours and just listened to the talking heads or read it on blogs. Between Factcheck, Politifact, CSPAN, and Thomas.gov, there's so much fact with minimal or no opinion, to form your own opinion if you just take the time to look. These morons have to get to the target range for practice.

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 1, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatives chose IRS agents to enforce the Affordable Health Care act because no one would have believed that used car salesmen or telemarketers were going to be assigned the job.

"Let's see guys... what unpopular groups can we link to Affordable Health Care? C'mon, guys! Think!"

Dang shame ACORN folded up, they would have been a natural choice. They did all our liberal dirty work except lobby for the Fairness Doctrine.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 1, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

You people are nothing more than lemmings......

Posted by: If only you had brains on April 1, 2010 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the number of 16k is based on normal seasonal hiring that the IRS does every year.

If the Retard party was looking a how many the IRS was hiring late last year and early this year it was probably temps and they deliberately said it was permanent "enforcers."

Sit would still be a lie though.

Posted by: Marnie on April 1, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK


How are these different?

Posted by: keith on April 1, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you forgot to mention that these new IRS agents will be flown in the black helicopters that the UN left behind when George Bush 2 was elected in 2000.

Posted by: mike reilly on April 1, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

This is why Republicans are professionals.

If you are going to make large numbers up, to use them for scary claims in the media, a number like "16,500" sounds MUCH truthier than an equally fictional number like "a gazillion." In this case, less (than a gazillion) is more.

Amateurs wouldn't make up such truthy sounding bits of disinformation.

Posted by: biggerbox on April 1, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

I mean, you talk about "assorted Republican voices on the Hill and on Fox News' payroll." Just wondering, how are they different?

Posted by: keith on April 1, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK
From there, Boehner, Paul, and other assorted Republican voices on the Hill and on Fox News' payroll (that means you, Brian Kilmeade) began presenting this foolish claim -- and adding ridiculous details -- to Americans as if it were fact.

You mean they aren't all on the FOX News payroll? According to David Frum, I thought all the Republicans now work for FOX.

Posted by: Steve on April 1, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

"some Republican staffers on the Hill concluded that it may "may" be necessary for the IRS to add "as many as 16,500" additional employees to enforce the law. The GOP staffers apparently made up the number, based on bizarre assumptions."

Damn those Punk Republican Staffers!

If I were going to take the Repubs down in the fall, I would run an advertisement with all these stupid false claims...

Claim: Republican leaders say the world is ended because of health care.
Fact: the world did not end.

Claim: Republicans say there's a chinese army in mexico waiting to invade.
Fact: there is no chinese army in northern Mexico.

Cla

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 1, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, JB & RP are prevaricating, but the whole issue never would have arisen had Obama and the Democrats had the good sense to adopt a single-payer system in which everyone is enrolled automatically. The mandate makes sense to economists, but it requires coercion to function, may well be unenforceable in practice, and predictably is generating anger -- and generating it not just from right wing crackpots, but from civil libertarians of every political persuasion. What if Social Security operated this way?

To my dying day, I will never understand how the party of FDR transmuted itself into the party of political timidity and corporatist solutions.

Posted by: James Conner on April 1, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) went a little further, saying there will be 16,500 new IRS agents, each of whom will be "armed." -- Steve Benen

So that's why my Walmart ran out of ammo...

Posted by: exlibra on April 1, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

and 17000 of them will be wearing dark menacing sunglasses.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on April 1, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't anyone concerned that there are no teeth in this bill? I mean, 16,000 armed IRS agents is overkill, but if there isn't some manner of enforcing the penalty, then all we are going to get is adverse selection with the sick buying insurance and the healthy not buying it. The end result will be higher premiums and a failed policy.

I say, at the very least, hire 16 IRS agents and give them pea shooters.

Posted by: Gridlock on April 1, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

The "patriots" are ready to rape and kill the IRS agents too, see http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/30/irs-investigates-death-threats-employees-health-approval,
we read of death threats and discussions of how to bait and kill IRS agents. One particularly vulgar and atrocious exchange on blogs:
In a particularly heinous reply that was praised by dozens of other commenters, someone suggested - in graphic terms - that tax opponents should rape an attractive agent before killing her. "Or vice versa…don’t have a problem with that either."
Yeah, vice versa. This is presumably a good "patriotic" and "Christian" crowd.

Posted by: neil b, on April 1, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

This crap just keeps frothing up like a backed up sewer. I suppose it would be mildly amusing to watch if it wasn't happening in my own basement. Because of the local flooding, our DPW says we should shove towels into the "outlets" (i.e. the basement toilets) using broomsticks. Sounds like good advice here.

Posted by: GP on April 1, 2010 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

"...Boehner and Paul were blatantly and shamelessly lying. FactCheck.org looked into this and concluded that it's a "wildly inaccurate claim." The Affordable Care Act, the researchers concluded, "requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation."

Poor Boehner. Such a shameless misleader/
I must self-limit my critical remarks

Posted by: more the psychologist on April 1, 2010 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Because of the local flooding, our DPW says we should shove towels into the 'outlets' (i.e. the basement toilets) using broomsticks. Sounds like good advice here."
Posted by: GP on April 1, 2010 at 6:49 PM

It's Giuliani time!!!
...for toilets?

Posted by: smartalek on April 2, 2010 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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