"One of the things in the health bill is 16,000 additional IRS agents,"said Newt Gingrich, echoing the latest GOP talking point. Rep. Paul Ryan joined him, saying the IRS will get "16,000 agents to police this new mandate." But is it true? Well, no.
FactCheck.org gives you the rundown here, but just for kicks, let's track how an estimate becomes spin becomes a lie becomes a sound bite. First, the estimate: The CBO predicted that costs related to the Affordable Care Act would "probably include an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years for administrative costs of the Internal Revenue Service." This money, incidentally, isn't to audit people or go door-to-door enforcing the individual mandate. It's primarily to give subsidies to qualifying small businesses and individuals. But put that aside for the moment.
On March 18, the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee put out a news release saying the "IRS may need to hire as many as 16,500 additional auditors, agents and other employees." As you might expect, "may" does some heavy lifting here. First, Republicans are using $10 billion, not $5 billion, as the number beneath their estimate. Second, as FactCheck.org says, the GOP "simply divided the spending (which they figured could be $1.5 billion per year once the law is fully effective) by the current average payroll cost for the entire IRS workforce."
In other words: No money for desks, office equipment, rent or anything else. Every possible dollar is hiring "IRS agents." And it doesn't account for annual raises. Oh, and before I forget, "agents" is also there to mislead. As FactCheck.org notes, "there’s a huge difference between an IRS revenue agent — who calls on taxpayers and conducts face-to-face audits — and the workers who make up the bulk of IRS employees. Those who work at the IRS include clerks, accountants, computer programmers, telephone help line workers and other support staff. In fact, IRS revenue agents make up only 15 percent of the IRS workforce."
So let's go back to Gingrich's original sentence. "One of the things in the health bill is 16,000 additional IRS agents," he said. First, that's not a "thing in the health bill." It's an extrapolation from a CBO report. Second, the word "is" is wrong, as even the original GOP spin only used the word "may." Third, the number 16,000 is wrong. Fourth, the word "agents" is wrong. But if the statement gets no credit for truth, it's at least efficient: Not just anyone could pack four falsehoods into 13 words. But Gingrich, now, he's a professional.
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