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

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.