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During the Bloomberg-Washington Post debate at Dartmouth College Oct. 11, 2011, presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman took his turn taking shots at President Barack Obama’s health care bill along with the other seven GOP front runners.
When Rick Santorum declared that repealing Obamacare would boost job creation, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Huntsman each shared ways to get the federal mandate off the table. Cain and Huntsman joined Santorum’s attack against Romney’s suggested waivers, which they said, would not do the trick.
"It's disingenuous to -- to just say that you can -- you can waive it all away," Huntsman said. "The mandate will be in place. The IRS is already planning on 19,500 new employees to administer that mandate. That will stay, and that's the ruinous part of Obamacare."
Huntsman's claim that the Internal Revenue Service planned to hire 19,500 new employees caught our attention, and his logic seemed similar to claims we’ve checked before. We decided to look into Huntsman’s interpretation to see how his figures compared.
First, we contacted Huntsman’s campaign to find out where he got his numbers, but spokesman Tim Miller said the campaign researcher could not be reached by our deadline.
Fortunately, both PolitiFact National and PolitiFact Georgia had reviewed similar claims. FactCheck.org, a nonprofit fact-checking team, has also done similar checks.
PolitiFact National first checked U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.,who was involved in early fights over the health care legislation. Kirk said at the time, "according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the IRS would need to hire over 16,000 people ... to audit the American people and impose the new taxes and mandates" of the health care bill.
Kirk’s attribution was misleading, PolitiFact ruled, as the 16,500 Kirk cited actually came from an estimation made by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles federal tax legislation. The CBO, a nonpartisan referee on budget questions, actually offered a cost estimate of $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years but did not suggest how those costs would translate into IRS jobs. Republicans picked the high end of the CBO estimate and then estimated the numbers of employees from there in order to favor their case, PolitiFact found. Republicans on Ways and Means even acknowledged that their figure could be less than 16,500 new jobs if factoring in overhead costs including desks and office supplies in addition to salaries. Kirk got a Mostly False from PolitiFact National.
A similar assertion about hiring new agents came up when Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas said it would take "16,500 armed bureaucrats to make this program work." FactCheck.org, who researched Paul’s statement, noted Paul had mischaracterized what the Ways and Means Republicans had said about number of potential IRS employees. IRS agents actually make up a small percentage of the total IRS workforce, while clerks, accountants, administrators, attorneys, help-line workers and other non-enforcement employees, make up the bulk. Only a minor portion of IRS agents are armed law enforcement officers who work on criminal cases. FactCheck.org called Paul’s statement a "wildly inaccurate claim."
PolitiFact National again ruled on a similar IRS agent claim made by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, but gave her a better Truth-O-Meter rating than Kirk. Bachmann chose to say the health care bill "may" put those agents in charge of policing the bill--not that they would--which earned her a Half True.
Since Bachmann’s statement, the IRS submitted a budget request to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for fiscal year 2012 that includes estimates for workers needed to begin implementing the health care bill. PolitiFact read the 159-page budget request and found requests for 1,269 employees to prepare for the health care tax changes, at a cost of $473.4 million. But most of the requests were made for IRS support roles such as information technology or customer service. Few were for agents.
So when PolitiFact Georgia joined the party to rule on a statement made by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., -- that the IRS estimated it must hire "16,500 agents at a cost of $10 billion to the taxpayer" to enforce the federal health care overhaul - -Chambliss got a False. No, not an IRS estimate. No, not agents. And no, not 16,500.
Finally, if we turn to Huntsman’s assertion during the debate that 19,500 employees will be needed to administer Obama’s health care mandate, we find it contains problems similar to previous claims we checked. Huntsman started a little more on target than some of his Truth-O-Meter predecessors, but his claim recycles misinterpreted numbers once again.
Huntsman’s claim estimates the IRS employees, rather than IRS agents, that will be tied to the health care bill. But Huntsman exaggerates when he says the IRS plans for almost 20,000 employees to administer the mandate. Really it was Ways and Means Committee Republicans, taking only the high end of the CBO's cost predictions, which floated the 16,500 employee number, while admitting they didn’t calculate overhead costs to offset those numbers.
And since the IRS’ own budget request estimates about 1,300 new employees in 2012 to administer the health care bill, mostly in non-enforcement roles, Huntsman’s 19,500 employee estimate is a new extreme for this claim. Not only does Huntsman repeat it wrongly, attributing it to the IRS, he kicks up figures that have been repeatedly debunked.
Internal Revenue Service, FY 2012 Budget Request, Congressional Budget Submission, Feb. 22, 2011, Accessed Oct. 12, 2011
PolitiFact.com "U.S. Sen. Chambliss says 16,500 IRS agents needed for health reform," May 4, 2011
PolitiFact.com, "Kirk says health care bill will lead IRS to hire more than 16,000 new employees,"
March 29, 2010
PolitiFact.com, "Michelle Bachmann Repeats Claim Health Care Bill Will require 16,500 new IRS agents," Jan. 26, 2011
FactCheck.org, "IRS Expansion," Feb. 22, 2011
FactCheck.org, "IRS and the Health Care Law Part II," Feb. 23, 2011
E-mail, Tim Miller, Jon Huntsman campaign spokesman, Oct. 12, 2011
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