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.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate