Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Remember the mythical 16K IRS agents?  Ezra Klein reminded us yesterday of yet another amazingly bogus claim that Republicans used during the health care debate: the idea that the CBO score was phony because the Democrats gamed the system, providing only six years of benefits and but ten years of revenues in the first decade.  As Klein points out (again), this is, well, entirely false.  And it's not as if there's a whole lot of difficulty figuring it out; the revenue streams just don't start until well into the first decade.  In fact, as he doesn't mention, Republicans wound up blasting Democrats for the 10/6 thing in the very same speeches in which they blasted Democrats for delaying the excise tax until 2018.  This was a neat trick, accusing Democrats of both implementing taxes right away and not implementing the very same taxes for eight years.

Klein cited David Brooks, who repeated the 10/6 thing in a March 8 column.  It was repeated in a NYT op-ed from Douglas Holtz-Eakin on March 20.  Karl Rove said it in the WSJ just a few days ago, on April 8 and Rush Limbaugh said it (presumably among many other times) on April 7, although neither explained how to square how the new taxes, which supposedly took effect immediately, had done so without anyone noticing them.  It's not new; the WSJ had it in an editorial way back on November 1, and Glenn Beck said it on November 19.  Karl Rove (he's consistent!) said it on Fox News on October 30.  I'm not sure, however, where it comes from...apparently conservative bloggers spent July jumping on the total cost argument, which is essentially correct (that is, that the CBO cost for the first decade is misleadingly low because the benefits implement slowly), and somehow between then and Halloween the false part, about revenues being generated immediately, wound up getting added to it.  Once added, it stuck. For what it's worth, several of the above cites were from Media Matters, which in the instances I looked at only debunked the general claim about the long-term effects of reform, not the far more obvious and clear mistake about taxes starting immediately.  I'm giving up, but I'd love to find out where it's really from.

What I would also love to see is how many Republicans used the 10/6 or the 16K IRS agents on the floor of the House or Senate during the debates last month.  I'm guessing the number is well over a dozen, perhaps over two dozen, Members of Congress used one or both of these "facts." 

And I'd also like to see how long the GOP intends to continue using this one, given that it depends on a tax that supposedly is already being collected.  Will it really be part of their anti-reform rhetoric this fall?  Will the non-existence of these taxes, on behalf of which the non-existent new IRS agents are presumably busily engaged in draconian enforcement measures, slow them up at all?  I'm looking forward to finding out.

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