ABC: IRS scandal opens new front on ObamaCare
posted at 12:41 pm on May 29, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
It certainly does, and not without good reason. Politically speaking, the need to put the IRS in an enforcement position for ObamaCare was already a weakness for Democrats; few people enjoy working with the IRS, and that was before the organization targeted applicants and filers on the basis of their politics. ABC News notes that the expanding IRS scandal gives Republicans a new and potent argument for rethinking the entire mess:
Conservative groups are preparing to use the deepening public distrust of the Internal Revenue Service to discredit the Affordable Care Act, and the Democrats who support it, in the 2014 election cycle.
Now that the IRS has admitted to unfairly targeting conservative groupsseeking tax-exempt status, Republicans plan to make the agency, which is responsible for carrying out much of President Obama’s health care law, the poster child for dysfunctional government, and a giant liability for Democrats. …
Democrats are effectively caught between a rock and a hard place. They had no choice but to swiftly condemn the IRS for inappropriately targeting conservative groups, but in doing so, they may have helped Republicans open the door to a second front of attack on the IRS.
Republicans hope that the deeply unpopular agency will become an albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates, especially those in more conservative districts.
“There is no better boogeyman in politics than the IRS,” said one Republican strategist. “So the fact that you can put the IRS on a piece of literature or you can talk about them in a television ad, that’s a good thing for us.”
Part of the problem for Democrats is that there is no way to put distance between the IRS and their signature March 2010 legislation — which is, perhaps not coincidentally, about the same time the IRS started targeting opponents of ObamaCare. Not only will the IRS have to collect more than a dozen new taxes and enforce the individual mandate, but there are dozens of other elements which the IRS must run as well. Wall Street Cheat Sheet’s Meghan Foley found 47 different provisions over which the IRS has jurisdiction:
Aside from the Department of Health and Human Services, the IRS is the most important government agency responsible for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — it is charged with overseeing the law’s required purchase of health coverage as it will check whether millions of Americans are in compliance. It will also track individuals’ private health information in order to distribute tax credits to eligible individuals who purchase coverage under a qualified health plan through one of the exchanges. In total, there are 47 different Obamacare provisions that require involvement from the IRS.
More specifically, the Affordable Care Act requires that employers tell the IRS which of its workers have insurance, and companies with at least 50 full-time employees must indicate whether they offer “minimum essential coverage” under ACA standards. At the end of the year, insurers must provide the tax agency and policyholders a form verifying coverage status, and individuals must include those forms with their federal tax return. The IRS must also determine who is eligible for federal subsidies — which will help millions of people pay for insurance — and who qualifies for Medicaid. Finally, the IRS must asses who owes a penalty for individuals not purchasing insurance or required companies not providing coverage.
Forty-seven provisions provide the tax agency will plenty of ways to exercise bias, if they’re so inclined. And as we have discovered over the last couple of weeks, they have been so inclined. If Republicans can’t force Democrats to repeal ObamaCare and unwind the IRS out of their health-care decisions, they can certainly force Democrats to defend the law that puts the IRS in that position. After this scandal, that makes a pretty powerful argument for voting with the GOP in the 2014 midterms.
That’s not the only area in which the IRS should have its reach curtailed. In my column for The Week, I argue that campaign-finance reform has driven political speech into areas in which it never belonged and gave bureaucrats the ability to corrupt the political process. The best way to fix that is to dump our campaign-finance system and replace it with full transparency instead:
With a blizzard of regulations that channels money into ridiculous and artificial categories and where candidates can take $35,000 donations at a time if they share it with political parties who will spend all of it on the candidate anyway, donors began looking long ago for ways to fund their political point of view. The money started going to tax-exempt organizations that put on pretenses of apoliticism or to PACs and then super PACS that ran their own political campaigns in parallel to the candidates and the parties. That puts the IRS squarely in position to impact politics in the U.S., and it’s not exactly a surprise to see an organization act to protect itself against those organizations that want it seriously reduced or eliminated. It’s blatantly corrupt and egregious, but not surprising.
None of this took money out of politics, either. All it accomplished was to remove accountability from parties and candidates in how it gets used, and reduces even further the transparency of its origins and uses in the political process. It also produced an uglier brand of politics, thanks to the arms-length relationship between candidates and these organizations.
With high-speed internet access nearly ubiquitous, the entire campaign-reform structure should be thrown out, along with tax exemptions for donations to political candidates, campaigns, PACS of all stripes, and political organizations. Instead, people should feel free to donate as much of their cash as they like to candidates and parties, who would then be required to publicly list all donations within 48 hours of receipt on their official websites. When people can channel their cash in such a manner, they won’t bother pushing it through the circuitous routes that keep multiplying in each election cycle. That will make candidates and parties responsible and accountable for the campaigns that take place, and might actually improve the tenor and ethics displayed in elections.
The only way to ensure that the IRS doesn’t interfere with elections in the future is to take them out of the loop entirely. They never should have been allowed to interfere with political activity in the first place, and hopefully both sides will see the wisdom of closing that door as soon as possible.
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