Saturday, February 04, 2023


Dana Milbank tells us that Republicans are complaining about IRS customer service, even though they don't really want it to get better:
Last month, in its first legislative action, the new House majority voted to rescind more than $70 billion in funding for the IRS, much of it intended to improve customer service at the agency.

This week, many of those same Republican lawmakers went to the House floor with a new grievance: They are angry about — wait for it — poor customer service at the IRS.

“The American people have suffered” while waiting “for months for their tax refunds,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, declared on the House floor....

Republicans, some of whom are still scaring Americans with the bogus claim that 87,000 armed IRS agents will be breaking down their doors, now have a new conspiracy theory: The IRS’s backlogs are caused by teleworking. (It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the IRS had its budget slashed by 15 percent since 2010, while the number of returns jumped by nearly 10 million annually.)

Therefore, the new majority passed a bill this week ordering IRS employees and all federal workers to return to teleworking levels that existed in 2019 — before the pandemic forever changed the way people work.
Many private businesses -- including the one I worked for until very recently -- did fine with remote work. Some are still doing fine. Of course, this accomplished that by investing in appropriate technology. Successful firms kept their tech up to date even before the pandemic, because it was good for business.

The IRS, by contrast, has very dated technology. The increased IRS funding in the Inflation Reduction Act won't just allow the IRS to hire more customer service reps -- it will also modernize the tech. (Note, for example, that IRS employees have to manually enter data from tax forms into agency computers -- optical character recognition technology isn't used yet.) So if you want better customer service rom the IRS, don't fight the extra funding.

Of course, the anger about remote work is also a backhanded attempt to argue that the pandemic isn't a concern, even for workers who might be older or in groups that are at high risk for serious COVID consequences. We know two things about right-wingers' attitudes toward the COVID virus: (1) they think it's no worse than the flu and (2) they think it's a deadly bioweapon designed to cause mass death and hand global power to China.

And so we also have this:
House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-KY) casually suggested to Fox News on Friday that the suspected Chinese spy balloon floating over the United States could contain “bioweapons” from “Wuhan” ...

After saying the balloon “never should have been allowed” to cross over into the U.S., the Kentucky lawmaker then fear-mongered that the craft could be loaded down with weaponized viruses. “My concern is that the federal government doesn't know what's in that balloon,” he asserted. “Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?”
Republican continue to allude to the COVID-as-bioweapon theory even as they argue that COVID vaccines are far more dangerous than the virus itself. Milbank writes:
The new House majority passed a bill this week aimed at striking down the “tyrannical” requirement that many health-care workers get vaccinated. It came armed with vials of disinformation.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) announced that it has “been proven false” that the vaccine “stops the spread” and that government agencies “have conceded” this. The original vaccine is “for a virus that no longer exists,” he claimed, and the vaccine “can cause myocarditis, blood clots, strokes and even death.”

... The vaccines do have rare side effects — but the risk of death from the virus itself is much greater.

... Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), a doctor, spoke of people shunning the vaccine “based upon fears about fertility” — without mentioning that there is no basis for such fears.
You're thinking, They can't have it both ways -- but in their bubble, they can.

The talk about bioweapons is preposterous. If the COVID virus was a Chinese bioweapon, why was it allowed to spread in China -- and not initially among, say, the Uyghurs, for whom the Chinese government clearly has contempt, but among the residents of central cities and towns? And if we're talking about a bioweapon on the spy balloon, why would you drop it from 60,000 feet, where it might not even reach a human being, rather than spread it in a more targeted way? And how does China benefit if a country to which it sells trillions of dollars of goods each year is devastated by a plague?

But none of this has to make sense. It just has to hit the primitive fear and rage centers in the brains of right-wing voters, even if it's all contradictory.


UPDATE: The U.S. has downed the balloon, sadly for Republicans. They really thought "The balloon is carrying bioweapons!!! OMG!!! OMG!!!" was a winner.

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