The GOP Plan to Wreck Government Is Doing Great, Thanks Very Much

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Good news! If you call the IRS, they’ll probably answer this year. The bad news is that this is purely temporary:

The reduced wait times during tax-filing season, which ends April 18, were possible because of a cash infusion from Congress, but they only temporarily obscure continued problems at the U.S. tax agency. Audits are down. Identity theft is persistent. Tax lawyers gripe about the lack of published rules….“I can certainly understand the displeasure that Congress has,” said Fred Goldberg, who ran the IRS under President George H.W. Bush. “You can shoot at the IRS, but the issue is collateral damage, and the collateral damage on taxpayers is huge.”

….The IRS is trying to crack down on tax fraud, but with fewer workers. The agency had 17,208 employees doing tax enforcement in 2015, down 24% from 2010….In fiscal 2017, the IRS wants $12.3 billion to get back above the 2010 peak funding level. Congressional Republicans have already declared that a non-starter, which means reduced audits and longer wait times will continue.

Republicans would like to do away with the IRS. That’s what they keep saying, anyway. They want all your taxes on a postcard, or a 3-page tax code, or an abolition of income taxes entirely.

Failing that, their goal is twofold: First, starve the agency of funding so that it operates poorly and the public gets pissed off at it. Second, starve the agency of funding so that it can’t do as many audits of rich people. In real terms, the IRS budget is down 14 percent since 2010, despite a notable lack of either (a) fewer people paying taxes or (b) fewer rich people trying to cheat on their taxes.

But this all works out well anyway. The bigger picture looks like this:

  1. Reduce IRS budget.
  2. IRS service tanks.
  3. Hold outraged congressional hearing about lousy IRS service.
  4. Public convinced that IRS bureaucracy is bloated and inefficient.
  5. Reduce IRS budget to cheers of public.
  6. Rinse, repeat.

This works for lots of other agencies too. Basically, you do everything you can to gum things up, then use this as evidence that government is incompetent. But it works especially well for agencies like the IRS, which no one likes in the first place. The fact that it helps out corporations and rich people is just a nice cherry on top.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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