April 7, 2010

Oh great. I guess this means we can plan on yet another campaign season predicated on battling people who believe things that are provably untrue.

Newt Gingrich, on Sean Hannity's Fox News show last night:

Gingrich: One of the things in the health bill is 16,000 additional IRS agents. Now I think the average American doesn't think we need 16,000 health police -- they don't think we need a single health police. And it's interesting that that health bill has more IRS agents than it has doctors or nurses or people who actually do health in the bill.

I think, Republicans this fall, if they were to run as one of their planks, that they will never fund the 16,000 IRS agents, and they will block implementation of the $430 billion in new taxes.

And then put it straight to the country -- Do you want 16,000 new IRS agents? Vote Democrat. Do you not want 16,000? Vote Republican.

My guess is that, in fact, could be one of the five or six issues that could set the stage for a Republican majority.

Ahem. From FactCheck.org:

Q: Will the IRS hire 16,500 new agents to enforce the health care law?

A: No. The law 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.

... This wildly inaccurate claim started as an inflated, partisan assertion that 16,500 new IRS employees might be required to administer the new law. That devolved quickly into a claim, made by some Republican lawmakers, that 16,500 IRS "agents" would be required. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas even claimed in a televised interview that all 16,500 would be carrying guns. None of those claims is true.

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.

... This figure originated with a report put out by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee on March 18. It said:

GOP Analysis, March 18: IRS may need to hire as many as 16,500 additional auditors, agents and other employees.

Notice the words "may" and "as many as." This is the highest figure the GOP analysts thought they could support. Notice also the phrase "other employees," which covers everyone down to file clerks and support staff.

The analysts based their 16,500 figure on an assumption that the IRS budget "could" require an additional $10 billion over the next 10 years as a result of the law, a figure they attribute to the Congressional Budget Office. But what CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf actually said in a March 11 letter to congressional leaders is this (with emphasis added):

CBO Director Elmendorf, March 11: CBO has not completed an estimate of all of the discretionary costs that would be associated with H.R. 3590. … [S]uch costs would probably include an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years for administrative costs of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Well, don't worry. Most Republicans believe that there are death panels in the health-care bill too.

And evidently, most Republicans also believe it's perfectly OK to lie through your teeth about your opponents' policies. Because that's what they're planning to do this fall.

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