Has Chuck Grassley Lost His Marbles?
It's now been clearly established that Dianne Feinstein is too senile to function effectively in the Senate. There’s no way to remove her until 2024 when she next faces the voters, so Schumer removed her as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Ranking Republican on that committee is the second oldest member of the Senate and the second most senile after Feinstein, Chuck Grassley. He’s 88 and running for his 8th six year term. If he wins and lives to the end of his 8th term, he’d retire at 96. He’s been serving himself and his family at the expense of the taxpayers since 1959. His opponent this cycle is Admiral Mike Franken, who beat conservative favorite, Abby Finkenauer, in the Iowa Democratic primary, 55-40%. He’s Grassley’s strongest opponent since 1980, when Grassley unseated Democrat John Culver.
More and more frequently, Grassley tried to memorize GOP talking points and then stumbles through them in public appearances, whether attacking the FBI for searching for stolen documents at Mar-a-Lago or spreading lies about the IRS attacking the middle class with Russian weapons. This week, in an appearance on Fox & Friends, Grassley mouthed off against the IRS, babbling nonsense about armed units of agents barging into into small Iowa businesses. Dan Hendrickson reported how Grassley stumbled around far right weapons fantasies and noted that “Fact-checkers have classified the claims made by Grassley as false and the Treasury Department itself called similar suggestions ‘wholly inaccurate,’ polite way of calling this GOP propaganda bullshit.
Grassley: “Are they going to have a strike force that goes in with AK-15s already loaded, ready to shoot some small business person in Iowa with these, because I think they’re going after middle class and small business people, because they think that anybody that has pass-through income is a crook, and they aren’t paying their fair share, and we’re going to go after them.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden responded to Grassley’s nonsense: “The incendiary conspiracy theories Republicans are pushing about armed IRS agents are increasingly dangerous and out of control. High-ranking Republicans, including the former chair of the Finance Committee, are saying shockingly irresponsible things. It’s unbelievable that we even need to say this, but there are not going to be 87,000 armed IRS agents going door-to-door with assault weapons. This is funding for answering phone calls and upgrading computer systems.”
Last week, Time Magazine reported on the GOP propaganda campaign against the IRS, claiming that the tax collectors intend to use nearly $80 billion in new funding to to hire of 87,000 new agents. “’Do you make $75,000 or less?’ tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. ‘Democrats’ new army of 87,000 IRS agents will be coming for you— with 710,000 new audits for Americans who earn less than $75k.’ Richard Grenell, Trump’s former Acting Director of National Intelligence, wrote on the social media platform: ‘The FBI raids Trump’s house and the Democrats vote to add 87,000 new IRS agents to go after Americans. Wake up, America.’ Other high-profile conservatives have insinuated that the Biden administration intends to direct those additional auditors to dig up dirt on the President’s political opponents. ‘After todays raid on Mar A Lago what do you think the left plans to use those 87,000 new IRS agents for?’ tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio.”
It’s a notion that has taken off like wildfire, signaling what is likely to be a prominent broadside from Republicans against Democrats in the midterm elections.
There’s only one problem. It’s not true.
The Inflation Reduction Act, a landmark climate, health care and tax package that passed the Senate on Sunday and is expected to head to Biden’s desk after the House approves it on Friday, includes roughly $78 billion for the IRS to be phased in over 10 years. A Treasury Department report from May 2021 estimated that such an investment would enable the agency to hire roughly 87,000 employees by 2031. But most of those hires would not be Internal Revenue agents, and wouldn’t be new positions.
According to a Treasury Department official, the funds would cover a wide range of positions including IT technicians and taxpayer services support staff, as well as experienced auditors who would be largely tasked with cracking down on corporate and high-income tax evaders.
“It is wholly inaccurate to describe any of these resources as being about increasing audit scrutiny of the middle class or small businesses,” Natasha Sarin, a counselor for tax policy and implementation at the Treasury Department, tells TIME.
…In all, the IRS might net roughly 20,000 to 30,000 more employees from the new funding, enough to restore the tax-collecting agency’s staff to where it was roughly a decade ago.
The IRS currently has roughly 78,000 employees. According to John Koskinen, who served as IRS commissioner from 2013 to 2017, that’s down from around 100,000 when he first started. By the time he resigned four years later, he said, it was clear that the agency was in the grip of a systematic attempt by the GOP to weaken it.