Members of left-leaning media networks CNN, MSNBC and NBC, as well as leading Democrats, have mocked Republican criticism of funding in President Biden’s proposed Inflation Reduction Act, which would double the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) workforce over the next decade.
Republican politicians have voiced concern that the plan would not only raise taxes on lower- and middle-class Americans, but could also increase the amount of tax audits, disproportionately affecting citizens who are unable to afford legal counsel.
Democrats have repeatedly insisted that the Inflation Reduction Act will not affect those making less than $400,000 or less a year, but FOX Business recently confirmed that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had informed lawmakers and taxpayers that those under the threshold would still account for around $20 billion in revenue for the legislation. Republicans claim this directly contradicts Biden and other Democrats' promises that no one in the middle- and lower-income brackets would get hit with increased audits. Both CNN and MSNBC admitted in on-air reports that an increase in the amount of taxes collected would allow the IRS to bolster its workforce.
Nevertheless, Democrats and prominent media members respectively have called concerns about the IRS funding boost "preposterous" and representative of "MAGA media’s hatred of government."
On MSNBC, "11th Hour" host Stephanie Ruhle smirked as she asked Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., if she would like to "fact-check" a claim from Republicans that the bill would lead an "army" of IRS agents descending on less wealthy Americans.
"What a load of malarkey," Porter replied, before claiming her constituents often complain about the lack of responsiveness from the IRS.
"The number one agency that the American people would like to have, have more agents, be more helpful, pick up the phone, build better technology, be more responsive, is the IRS," she added.
On two different occasions, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., threw cold water on concerns about bolstering the IRS. In one segment, Himes suggested Republican opposition to the bill is because they want it to be easier for people to cheat on their taxes. In another segment, he painted a hyperbolic picture of conservative concerns that drew from the most extreme.
"This notion that IRS auditors are somehow black helicopter, AR-15 wielding police officers that are going to come down your chimney and go after you—it’s utter nonsense," Hines said.
On CNN, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the notion "preposterous."
NBC News’ Chuck Todd made a similar comment when discussing the proposed legislation with a panel on Thursday’s "Meet the Press."
"I think Chuck Grassley was one of them, I heard others who were suddenly like conflating and the IRS agents are going to suddenly act like FBI agents when they come—and you know my answer to people afraid of more IRS agents is well, you know, then don’t cheat on your taxes," Todd said as the panel erupted into laughter.
CNN’s "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter signaled Republican concerns over a bigger IRS as a "new peak" in "anti-government" sentiment from the right.
"What was that called on the right? It was called a terrifying overreach by the government. The reason I’m bringing it up is—let’s just call it what it is, MAGA media’s hatred of government is reaching a new high," he said.
In print, the Washington Post reported on Democrats' hopes that "bigger IRS will be a better IRS," asserting that a modernization of tax collection would actually make it more likely that the agency will investigate the wealthy who cheat taxes, rather than go after lower-income earners. The article also cited experts accusing Republicans of having "starved" the IRS of resources.
It noted that "largely" GOP-led policies have pushed the IRS into more audits of poorer taxpayers by removing the agency’s ability to focus attention on wealthy Americans engaging in tax sheltering.
"The result is that the IRS’s prolific enforcement capabilities — which bring in on average better than $10 in revenue for every $1 spent pursuing audits — are often trained on the most economically vulnerable taxpayers," reporter Jacob Bogage added.
An article from Scott Horsley of NPR reported a revamped enforcement strategy, courtesy of a hefty cash infusion, would allow the IRS to collect more money from taxpayers, but also cultivate a fairer tax system to go after wealthy Americans, where they were previously "outgunned."
One expert, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Brian Riedl, is among those who isn't so sure that a more powerful IRS will only hunt down the wealthiest tax evaders.
"The income breakdown of the new audits is not clear and will be determined over the time by the IRS," he told Fox News Digital. "Clearly, the IRS does not need tens of thousands of new agents just to audit 800 billionaires, or even America’s millionaires – there will be a large population of agents left over to audit the middle class. And CBO has assumed that at least $20 billion in new audit revenue over the decade will come from families earning less than $400,000 annually. At the same time, Treasury Secretary Yellen insists that she has directed the IRS to not increase audit rates on families earning under $400,000. Whether such a directive is legitimate and lasts for the full decade is anyone’s guess."
The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal also demurred, with a Sunday editorial that argued the IRS expansion would likely collect billions in cash from "new middle-class audits."
"The problem is that for every tax cheat the IRS identifies, several more compliant tax filers will be subjected to needless scrutiny," the board wrote.
FOX Business' Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report.