"Armed, thuggish IRS agents"
Increasingly Republicans talk about policy in terms that promote violence. Sadly, this
violent talk is becoming normalized within their ranks. For a while, it was fools like
Greene, Gaetz and Gosar - then Cruz and Hawley started to pile on. With the IRS investments in the Inflation Reduction Act even staid old-line Republicans like Grassley talk of resisting "armed, thuggish IRS agents" who will come to Iowa to attack small business owners.
Not only is this dishonestly inaccurate, it is dangerous. People like Grassley know what's in the bill and how important the investment is. Now, Grassley may becoming senile or
befuddled, but more likely he is feeling pressed because his re-election campaign is not going all that well.
Let’s get some facts out. The IRS has the same number of agents as they had in the early
1970s! There are nearly 100 million more Americans now than in the 1970’s. It is no wonder
the IRS call centers are wildly understaffed and have such horrible response rates. In August
2022, more than a million 2021 tax returns have not been finalized, an obvious sign of
understaffing. The head of the IRS is a Trump appointee, and even he has testified to Congress about how woefully understaffed the IRS has become.
What the new funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will do, is allow the IRS additional staff to improve their service to all parts of the American population. The IRS is part
of the US Treasury Department and Secretary of the Treasury Yellin has told the IRS to focus on cleaning up the backlog of returns not yet finalized and to get refunds out to those citizens.
The new act increases funding over a 10 year period, not one year. Over that timeframe it
is estimated that 50,000 IRS staff will retire and to compensate for attrition and staffing
improvements they forecast the hiring of 87,000 employees.
The 6500 agents tasked with tax enforcement will be doubled to 13,000. Their focus will
be on high value returns. Why would they waste their time on a neighborhood plumber with a business at $500,000 when they can focus on a hedge fund manager with $500 million? As the bank robber Willie Sutton replied when asked why he robbed banks: “That’s where the money is!” It's the high value returns where rich individuals play games with deductions, hide funds overseas and cheat the rest of us. After all, any taxes they cheat and avoid paying, the rest of us have to make up with higher tax rates.
But Republicans talk of armies of IRS thugs, armed with AR15s marching into Des Moines and auditing Bob the Builder at gunpoint. Their shrill lies rile up their base in ways that almost ensure violence. When the worst happens, and it is likely to be a when not if, the blood will be on Republican hands. Their lies, fabrications and exaggerations endanger us all. If there is a level-headed Republican left, they must call on their colleagues to dial it back and lower the heat in their comments. Policy disagreements can be passionate but they don’t have to be violent.
America can be better than that.