It’s easier to despise a group charged with taking money out of our paychecks than to understand the important role it plays in keeping this democratic republic alive.
But our blind hatred for the IRS actually makes it worse for us all. I’m not going to delve into the supposed scandal currently encircling the agency, one that began with a highly-misleading report that falsely suggested the IRS was only “targeting” conservative groups. It has now morphed into the scandal of the missing emails and Lois Lerner’s stonewalling. I’ll let others chew on that.
I want to focus on something a lot less juicy, but much more important. The IRS has seen its funding cut for many years now. That means a smaller staff tasked with even more work even as the Citizens United and other court rulings have made the agency’s job that much more difficult and complicated.
How does that hurt us all? By some estimates, the agency collects maybe $300 billion or $400 billion less annually than current tax law says it should – because it doesn’t have the resources to go after more tax cheats, particularly those who employ an army of lawyers. The federal deficit at the end of this fiscal year is projected to be somewhere south of $500 billion, meaning that if nothing changed – no gutting of major programs like Medicare to cut spending, no massive tax increases on the wealthy – we could rid ourselves of the federal deficit by next year just by making sure the IRS had the tools it needs to collect the money it already should be collecting.
Shouldn’t getting rid of the deficit be worth the investment in a larger, better-resourced agency staff? It would change the calculus in Washington and ease some of the pressure to drastically change popular programs such as Medicare.
I think it would, but instead we are stuck on partisan games that get us to focus on hatred of the other side more than something that would benefit us all.
The latest “scandal” has just made it harder for the IRS to do its job well. And while that might make some people happy, it hurts the nation’s bottom line.
For the latest evidence of the IRS’s de-fanging, click here.
For more of the story, click here.
And for more reading, click here.