Deroy Murdock: Corruption aside, the IRS has too much Obamacare authority
"We provided horrible customer service," recently departed IRS commissioner Steven Miller told the House Government Oversight Committee on May 17. "I will admit that. We did. Horrible customer service."
So, even if one accepts the dubious notion that nothing fishy is afoot at the IRS, why did Miller promote the woman who was responsible for such admittedly dreadful client care?
Sarah Hall Ingram was commissioner of the IRS's Tax Exempt & Government Entities Division as it began discriminating against and persecuting Tea Party groups and other conservative institutions. As an IRS organizational chart confirms, Ingram was the direct boss of Lois "Fifth Amendment" Lerner, whose administrative leave now allows her to sleep in, relax at home, and collect her annual taxpayer-financed paycheck of $177,000. She still makes $3,000 above what senators earn and more than quadruple the average U.S. wage of $42,980 — all for doing nothing.
Rather than face the music, Ingram goes to work every day and pushes the IRS ever deeper into American medicine. She leads the IRS's efforts to enforce Obamacare, hilariously called the "Affordable Care Act" (ACA).
As if the U.S. Tax Code were not irreparably baffling enough, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) lists 47 new taxes and regulations that Obamacare requires the IRS to manage. As Ken Braun of the Job Creators Network notes, some of these taxes are destructive, albeit simple, such as the 2.3 percent gross receipts levy on medical devices, payable whether or not manufacturers are profitable. Other provisions spin one's head like a roulette wheel.
• As GAO explains, Section 1408 of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (the ACA's companion measure, both of which compose Obamacare) "Amends the cellulosic biofuel producer credit (nonrefundable tax credit of about $1.01 for each gallon of qualified fuel production of the producer) to exclude fuels with significant water, sediment, or ash content (such as black liquor)."
• Section 1409 "Clarifies and enhances the applications of the economic substance doctrine and imposes penalties for underpayments attributable to transactions lacking economic substance."
• "The IRS is responsible for reviewing, at least once every three years, the community benefit activities of each hospital affected by" Section 9007, observes The Weekly Standard's Jeffrey H. Anderson. "So the judge of whether hospitals are meeting community needs will be the IRS. What could possibly go wrong? (On the heels of [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius's earlier decrees, one wonders how the IRS will treat Catholic hospitals.)"
The IRS greets these new duties not with glee, but with uncharacteristic trepidation.
Dishing out Obamacare's subsidies and penalties "will require significant resources, particularly customer service resources as taxpayers turn to the IRS with questions and issues about the ACA and their tax and health insurance requirements," IRS Inspector General J. Russell George pleaded with a House Appropriations subcommittee last March 5. "Customer service has been declining in recent years, with fewer taxpayers being served at the local offices and the IRS answering fewer telephone calls. The ACA will further stretch these already limited resources."
"It is unprecedented in recent history, the amount of responsibility the IRS is being given in an area that most people don't think of as an IRS function," George answered one subcommittee member. "This is going to lead to problems, sir."
When it comes to imposing Obamacare, the IRS is running low on two key ingredients: trust and competence. The Republican House should pass and transmit to the Senate H.R. 2009, which would separate the IRS from Obamacare.
Republicans should make Democrats stand up and be counted. Do they want to limit the scandal-scarred IRS to its current duties — at most — or expand its reach, from America's bank accounts to our medical records?
If Georgia Republican Congressman Tom Price, M.D.'s bill survives the Senate, let Obama decide whether to sign that measure or veto it and, thus, distance himself even further from the increasingly disenchanted American people.
Deroy Murdock is a Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.