February 7, 2023

CB NO: Here’s how much the “fiscally responsible” party will cost American taxpayers

DEBT A TETE: Who'll end up 'compromising' at White House meeting over limits and cuts?

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$114 billion is an awful lotta moolah. That’s what the Republican party plan would cost American taxpayers over a decade, the CBO estimates, if it went into effect.

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In other words, the party that claims to be “fiscally responsible” would add to the US deficit by refusing to increase audits on [apply Bernie voice] millionaires and billionaires.

Apparently, the GOP is completely OK with people like their favorite demagogue, Donald J. Trump, Ruler of all Mar-a-Lago, living the good life while paying practically nothing most years in taxes.

And while we don’t know if Trump is truly wealthy or just manages to live off the public teat and the donations he gets from his cult-like following, we do know that, since the 1980s, the genuinely wealthy people in this country have seen an explosion in their wealth coincide with a major reduction in the taxes they’ve paid and the audits they’ve faced.

Trickle down economics has essentially meant the wealthy peeing down on the rest of us.

Yet Republicans have continued their campaign against government tax-collecting.

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Their latest misdirection is claiming that the Inflation Reduction Act will create a new “army of 87,000” auditors that will harass middle-class American families.

This is false.

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What actually occurred was that the Biden administration put aside $80 billion for the IRS so that it could increase overall staff, including special administrative agents who do complex tax returns like Trump’s.

Linda Qiu of the New York Times did an excellent job of debunking the GOP claim about the Army of 87,000 back in November, nothing that just under $46 billion of the $80 billion allotted would go toward enforcement activities.

But even that figure can be misleading, as it fails to show the full picture.

Qiu explained that of the 79,000 workers currently employed by the IRS, just 10,000 were agents – less than 13%. The rest are receptionists (13,000), seasonal employees (10,000), lawyers, et cetera.

Also, 52,000 IRS employees are set to retire in the coming years, which is why it’s urgent that we replace them.

The Democratic plan would increase the total number of workers to around 113,000, Qiu estimates.

And they’re desperately needed, it seems.

Chuck Marr of the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities wrote earlier this month about what the true picture looks like and why the Republican lie about the Biden plan is so dangerous.

“For the largest corporations (those with more than $1 billion in assets),” he writes, “the audit rate fell by more than half between 2010 and 2017. For millionaires, the audit rate fell by roughly 77 percent over the same period. Preliminary audit data for 2018 and 2019 suggest that the audit rate may have declined over 90 percent between 2010 and 2019.”

Despite GOP claims about a new army, Marr observed that the current skilled auditor staff is actually almost 2,300 less than in 1954–when Ike was in his second year of his presidency.

Since then, he says, the US population has doubled and the economy’s grown seven-fold.

And yet we have far fewer agents at Internal Revenue.

But the Republicans want there to be even less.

Why is this?

Well, some might say it’s about making government small enough to drown in a bathtub, as Grover Norquist frequently expresses.

This would be an ideology I disagree with (and hopefully one you disagree with as well, dear reader), but at least it would be an ideology.

Yet there are plenty of indications that the Republicans of today don’t actually believe in smaller government, but instead, as Robert Reich might argue, in a government that is favorable to certain parties.

The GOP doesn’t seem to object to spending when it comes to giveaways to wealthy Americans and corporations; their cutting pen only appears to come out when it involves programs that do things like seek to alleviate poverty or create a fairer playing field.

You don’t see them doing much – or anything, really – to address yellow dog contracts, unfair labor practices, union bashing, or food insecurity.

Cutting the IRS has also been the GOP’s way of going after ObamaCare (by reducing its enforcement unit).

Because why not also make sure to undermine healthcare?

That’s all bad enough.

But the numbers themselves don’t lie.

Here is a picture of the CBO estimate:

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White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain appropriately summed up the Republican strategy:

And he’s right. Those numbers look bad – very bad. Yet somehow one expects they won’t change the GOP narrative.

Help Ross “Go after the bastards,” as he likes to say, by clicking on @RossRosenfeld to follow him on Twitter!

Ross Rosenfeld

is a news analysis and opinion writer whose work has also appeared in the New York Daily News and Newsweek. He lives in New York.

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