The PJ Tatler

NY Times: The Real IRS Scandal is Republican Budget Cuts

ob·tuse
[uhb-toos, -tyoos]
adjective
1.
not quick or alert in perception, feeling, or intellect; not sensitive or observant; dull.
2.
not sharp, acute, or pointed; blunt in form.

Synonyms
1. unfeeling, tactless, insensitive; blind, imperceptive, unobservant; gauche, boorish; slow, dim.

Please read this editorial from the New York Times and apply as many descriptives above as are apt:
There is a scandal going on at the Internal Revenue Service, but it has nothing to do with Lois Lerner or her missing emails. House Republicans have not given up on their noisy crusade to tie Ms. Lerner to what they imagine to be widespread political corruption within the Obama administration, but all they have proved is that the I.R.S. is no better at backing up its computer files than most other government agencies.

No, the real scandal is what Republicans did to cripple the agency when virtually no one was looking. Since the broad Tea Party-driven spending cuts of 2010, the agency’s budget has been cut by 14 percent after inflation is considered, leading to sharply reduced staff, less enforcement of the tax laws and poor taxpayer service.

As the economist Jared Bernstein noted recently in The Washington Post, a weakened I.R.S. enforcement staff will be unable to make a dent in the $385 billion annual gap between what taxpayers owe and what they pay — an unintended tax cut, mostly for the rich, that represents 11 percent of this year’s spending. Middle-class taxpayers who struggle to fill out their 1040s may welcome a diminished threat of an audit, but in fact this reduction is not about them. The I.R.S. audits a far higher percentage of tax returns from people reporting incomes over $200,000 than from those reporting less, because that is where the money is (along with the most profitable cheating).

But in 2013, it audited only 24 percent of returns over $10 million, compared with 30 percent in 2010. Of returns reporting between $1 million and $5 million, it audited 16 percent in 2013, compared with 21 percent in 2010. That is great news for the nation’s highest-income taxpayers, many of whom donate generously to Republican politicians to keep their taxes low. They are getting their money’s worth from lawmakers who debilitate revenue collection while claiming to be deeply worried about the budget deficit.

But it is bad news for building roads, keeping the air clean, protecting the nation’s security, and countless other vital government tasks. Revenue collected by I.R.S. enforcement actions has fallen by more than $4 billion over the last four years, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And every dollar spent on enforcement yields $6 in additional revenue. Many I.R.S. computers use obsolete Windows XP operating systems and cannot keep up with a growing problem of identity theft that is directing refunds to criminals.

What a despicable piece of tripe. The entire government may be deficient at backing up computer files. But only Lois Lerner is the subject of a congressional investigation trying to get to the bottom of what might be the most egregious misuse of the IRS as a political weapon since the days of Richard Nixon. We don’t know how bad the IRS acted because Lois Lerner — and 6 other IRS employees — said their hard drives crashed and the agency says the information is irretrievable. The fact that this doesn’t elicit even a raised eyebrow from the Times is inexplicable unless you attribute their attitude to ideological and partisan animus directed against Republicans.

As for budget cuts interfering with IRS audit capabilities and its ability to hound taxpayers, rich and poor, something else endemic to government besides poor record keeping is poor management and allocation of resources. As we saw during the sequester nonsense, when forced to choose, government managers were able to make things work by reallocating personnel and their budgets. I suppose if you make it a priority for IRS managers to attend ritzy conferences at swanky hotels, you’re not going to have enough leftover to audit billionaires.

Perhaps if the IRS didn’t expend the effort to target conservative groups, they might save enough to audit a few Democrats.

I can just see the Times editorial staff giggling when writing this idiocy. Won’t we tick those right wingers off? Well, you got our attention. And for anyone above the age of seven with one or two working brain cells, you’ve also demonstrated a towering conceit that would be shocking if we didn’t already know that the paper is besotted with partisan rancor.