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Political Smell Test: Clint Didier claims health reform bill purchase 3,000 shotguns for IRS

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on June 16, 2010 at 8:57 am | 10 Comments »
September 23, 2010 3:33 pm

During an interview with TVW at the state Republican convention Saturday, U.S. Senate candidate Clint Didier listed ways Washington residents could resist the federal health care law.

Didier, a farmer and high school football coach from Eltopia, told TVW’s Niki Reading that people could support state Attorney General Rob McKenna’s lawsuit against the law, replace the members of Congress who supported it and refuse to take part in the program.

Here’s the exchange that occurs at the six minute mark of the interview (the ellipses don’t indicate that words have been removed, only that the speakers are interrupted or change direction):

Didier: “The third thing right now that we have is we the people tell the federal government we’re not participating. Now put us all in prison and find out where you’re going to get the money to run this massive government that you’ve created.”

Reading: “So you mean just not buy …

CD: “Just don’t participate, cause they said…and they’ve already bought 3,000 military grade shotguns in this health care bill to the IRS so they can arrest the ones who don’t pay.”

NR: “I thought it would be a fine.”

CD: “Why are they buying shotguns, military grade shotguns?”

NR: “I haven’t heard that.”

CD: “It’s in the bill. You gotta start looking at what they’re putting…and what did we hear from our great speaker of the House? Well just pass it and then we’ll found out what’s in it. Well how about you guys start reading the bills.”

It seems Didier’s statement is based on a combination of claims made during and after passage of the bill. For example, according to an analysis by FactCheck.org, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul said in an interview that the bill called for the hiring of “16,500 ARMED bureaucrats coming to make this program work.”

And Nevada Sen. John Ensign said this on the floor on March 25: “And 16,500 new IRS agents are going to be required to be hired because of the health care reform bill. Do we want IRS agents showing up at people’s houses, not only to audit them because of their taxes but because now they are not paying an individual mandate fine?”

FactCheck thinks the 16,500 numbers come out of a partisan extrapolation of an IRS estimate that implementing the tax-related aspects of the law could cost between $5 billion and $10 billion over 10 years. The House GOP staff took the high figure and decided that it would pay for 16,500 IRS employees. That would be the case only if all the money went for staff and none for office space, desks, computers etc.

Here’s what FactCheck concluded:

. None of those claims is true.

The IRS’ main job under the new law isn’t to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies — in the form of refundable tax credits — to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.

The law does make individuals subject to a tax, starting in 2014, if they fail to obtain health insurance coverage. But IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee March 25 that the IRS won’t be auditing individuals to certify that they have obtained health insurance.

He said insurance companies will issue forms certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. “We expect to get a simple form, that we won’t look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage,” Shulman said. “So there’s not going to be any discussions about health coverage with an IRS employee.”

In any case, 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. That doesn’t leave a lot for IRS enforcers to do.

More recently, some conservative bloggers found a purchase order on a federal procurement site. It asked for proposals to sell the IRS 60 shotguns. Here is that
purchase order

Some of the bloggers, including this gun owners blog, say this would be the first time revenue agents are armed. That’s not true either. Others have suspected that it is tied to enforcement of the health care reform by the aforementioned “armed bureaucrats.”

Again, from FactCheck:

In fact, the only IRS employees who are authorized to carry firearms are “special agents,” who are sworn law enforcement officers who work on criminal cases. As of last year there were only 2,725 of those, making up just under 3 percent of all IRS employees. So even if thousands of new IRS workers were actually hired, very few of them, if any, would be “armed bureaucrats.”

In fact, as previously mentioned, the bill signed into law specifically waives any criminal penalties for individuals who refuse to obtain coverage and also refuse to pay the tax. It says (on page 131): “In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.”

So even though Didier’s claim is not true, it is conceivable that it could have emerged from a series of widely distributed misstatements about the law – that it hires thousands of new agents, that they would be armed, that they would come after citizens who don’t abide by the law. Toss in two truths – that the IRS has somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 special agents and that the IRS is in the market for shotguns – and the false story comes together.

Note: Some conservatives accuse FactCheck.org of liberal bias. I have found it to be a good source of information, especially to check the truth of political claims.

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