Last summer, Sarah Palin famously tried to poison the discourse surrounding health reform by charging that the legislation included bureaucratic “death panels” that would sentence the disabled and the elderly to death. Of course, the accusation was a flat out lie, and news agencies eventually fact-checked and rebuffed Palin’s claim. But that did not stop right-wing partisans and Republicans from using Palin’s absurd death panel claim to try to sow fear in the public and kill the bill.
Now, Newt Gingrich is urging Republicans to campaign on a new, equally absurd myth. Over the last few days, Gingrich has been appearing on television and radio alleging that health reform includes “16,000 IRS agents” as “health police.” Noting that the 16,000 IRS agents claim is “wildly inaccurate,” FactCheck.org explained that the new health law requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The bill signed into law (on page 131) specifically prohibits the IRS from using the liens and levies commonly used to collect money owed by delinquent taxpayers, and rules out any criminal penalties for individuals who refuse to pay the tax or those who don’t obtain coverage. PolitiFact, in their own article on the misinformation, reported that the number of new IRS workers would be closer to 8,000, and that the workers would not be “agents,” but rather “clerks, accountants, computer programmers, telephone help line workers and other support staff.” Indeed, FactCheck concludes that the 16,000 claim is “a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation.”
Nevertheless, Gingrich is pressing on, hyping his own false claim with hyperbolic rhetoric and Nazi Germany comparisons. In a segment on PJ TV today, Gingrich claimed that Democrats are hiring “16,000 IRS agents” as a “a health Gestapo” — like that of the Nazi secret police. He continued, with pictures of federal agents with guns and sledgehammers splashed across the screen, by predicting that “every Republican candidate” should campaign on a promise of defunding these “government policemen”:
GINGRICH: I believe one of the biggest issues in September and October will be 16,000 IRS agents and I suspect every Republican candidate will campaign on a promise to cut off all funding in January for the 16,000 IRS agents. You don’t need a health Gestapo in the United States. And I think the Democrats are going to be faced with a real decision, do they really want to campaign in September, October favoring 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce the health law? And what does it tell you about a health law so complicated that you need 16,000 government policemen? It’s sort of creating a brand new health police.
Already, Republicans across the country are echoing this false charge. Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), John Ensign (R-NV), as well as Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Pete Sessions (R-TX), and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) have repeated the same 16,000 IRS agents lie.
Despite the domestic terrorist attack against an IRS building in Austin, Texas earlier this year, conservatives are continuing to stoke fear and hatred towards the government agency. After the plane attack, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) justified the attack, saying that he too fears the IRS and wants to abolish it.