In the waning days of the ObamaCare debate, Republicans warned repeatedly that the IRS would need thousands of new agents to enforce the new health-insurance mandate, and that the bill didn’t provide enough resources to fund them. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) estimated that it would take 15,000 new agents, while Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) said that the IRS would need at least $5 billion more than what Democrats allocated for the first ten years of the program. Now the IRS’ independent watchdog says Republicans were right, and that Congressional Democrats and the White House seriously underestimated enforcement costs:
A warning that federal tax officials will need more congressional funding to administer the Democrats’ health reform law has rekindled the partisan debate over its cost effectiveness.
Senior Republicans have said for months that the new responsibilities required of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under the legislation would saddle the agency with billions of dollars in additional costs — expenses not accounted for in the bill.
A Wednesday report from the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), an independent watchdog within the IRS, backed those claims, finding that the agency currently lacks the resources to take on the new duties. …
“Before ObamaCare passed, [Minority Leader John Boehner] and others warned that it would require an army of new IRS agents,” Boehner (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel said in an email. “Democrats denied it. Now we know the truth.”
So how much will the IRS need? No one knows — and that’s the point that Republicans have been making all along. The NTA can’t figure it out, the IRS can’t estimate it, and the Democrats never seriously attempted to determine it at all. Like many other provisions of ObamaCare, they simply made up cost numbers in order to argue that the bill would be deficit neutral.
Even Democratic Senator Max Baucus, one of the original authors of ObamaCare, admitted as much in response to the NTA assessment:
The office of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, echoed that, saying Friday that funding and staffing levels won’t be decided until the IRS comes up with an implementation strategy.
“Until those factors are determined,” a Finance aide said in an email, “it’s premature to specify what the IRS will need, and certainly premature to infer the IRS won’t be able to handle it.”
That certainly is true — and again, exactly what Republicans pointed out in the debate. No one knows what the costs will really be for enforcement of the mandate, which means no one knows whether this is a deficit-neutral system at all. These costs and enforcement strategies should have been determined before passage of the bill, not left as an ambiguous fog in the very middle of how Americans will have to interact with government once ObamaCare gets fully implemented.
In fact, Congress should never have passed ObamaCare at all, since these issues clearly go beyond its competence, and this is yet another piece of evidence of just how far over their heads this got.