From GOP Chairman to Militias, Right Issues Baseless Warnings of Armed Tax Thugs

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Many federal agencies with seemingly obvious mandates have a wider range of functions than you might expect. The secret services are responsible for controlling counterfeiting. The Department of Agriculture administers the food stamp program. And the Internal Revenue Service, in addition to running an archaic and complex paper-based system for tracking tax returns, has an enforcement arm that serves as a literal tax police.

It makes sense, once you think about it. The IRS Criminal Investigative Unit, as the law enforcement group is known, is responsible for “investigating potential criminal violations of the tax code and related financial crimes, a way that promotes trust in the tax system and respect for the law,” as the agency described in a recent job posting.

This publication caused a huge commotion, wide to the right, due to his straightforward description of the duties the position entailed. Those hired “would carry a firearm and be prepared to use deadly force, if necessary”, Lily, before this stipulation was struck. This is a normal part of serving as a police officer, if not necessarily a part that is usually highlighted in job applications. But we don’t usually think of the IRS as some kind of agency that pulls out guns, which has contributed to the backlash.

Most important, however, was that the application, online for months before gaining attention, entered the public conversation just as fear of the right-wing of the IRS application had reached its peak. The Senate’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) across party lines included new funding for IRS staff, funding that was introduced by Republicans (often dishonestly ) as fueling a massive new bureaucracy aimed at scrutinizing average Americans. And now here comes the IRS talking about using deadly force.

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The idea that the IRS is up to something has been circulating for months. In early June, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) appeared on Fox News to discuss a viral story about the IRS buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of munitions.

“I imagine the IRS in goggles and green cubicles — not smashing doors and dumping Glock clips on our fellow Americans,” Gaetz said. “It is certainly troubling that in 2022 alone the IRS has spent approximately $725,000 on ammunition.” He claimed President Biden’s plan was, among other things, to “disarm Americans” but “still collect your taxes, and they apparently need $725,000 worth of ammunition to do the job.”

The idea that the government is buying so much ammunition that the Americans are unable to do so is not new. There were similar rumors in 2013 under President Barack Obama. Every once in a while someone notices that federal law enforcement agencies like the IRS purchase ammunition to perform their duties and the extent of those purchases raises eyebrows. Then people forget about it again. Has the IRS bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of munitions this year? Yes. Does it do this every year? Yes. From 2010 to 2017, for example, it averaged around $675,000 in purchases per year.

This week, the rhetoric about the IRS has increased by several degrees. In part, that’s because of the Senate’s passage of the IRA and the upcoming House vote on Friday. But it’s also likely in part because of the FBI’s raid of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home. The search, approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and a federal judge, sparked an immediate partisan backlash against the FBI and broader federal law enforcement. Journalists who follow right-wing rhetoric have noticed an increase in calls for armed opposition — and have highlighted examples of members of armed groups focusing on the IRS in particular.

In one example, a man shows a number of guns and mentions the amount of ammunition the IRS buys. In October 2020, while Trump was still president, the Department of Homeland Security named domestic violent extremists one of the most potent threats facing the country.

This rhetoric about the IRS, however, is not confined to the fringe. Appearing on Fox News Thursday morning, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), once as strong an example of restrained institutional conservatism as you could find on Capitol Hill, used equally aggressive language to attack the tax collection agency.

“Are they going to have a strike force coming in with AK-15s already loaded, all ready to shoot a small business in Iowa with these?” he asked rhetorically, apparently meaning AR-15s. “Because I think they’re going after middle class and small business people.”

The grim answer is: yes, the IRS is probably all set to pursue legal action against a small business owner who violates the law. But that’s not what Grassley says. Instead, slated for re-election in November, he’s trying to score points with the Fox News audience by portraying the IRS as nefarious.

Hours later, Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel offered her own take on the IRS threat.

I’ll take a chance and say that 1) “the Democrats” have no say in assigning the law enforcement arm of the IRS, 2) the IRS isn’t interested in your kid’s lemonade stand unless they start making hundreds of dollars in revenue. and 3) if he actually chose to crack down on a kid for not paying taxes on his extraordinarily lucrative lemonade business, he wouldn’t need men with “AK-15s” to do it. .

What’s critical to notice here is that McDaniel and Grassley portray the IRS as the Biden administration’s secret police in much the same way as the guy who identifies as part of an armed group. The motivation of Republican officials is the same: to appeal to a group of Americans who are ready to see the IRS as a nefarious and dangerous entity. It’s a sales pitch, based on the argument that the IRS can’t be trusted and wants to tax Americans physically and economically.

McDaniel and the guy showing guns are trying to win support – McDaniel for the votes and the guy for the foot soldiers. Their target audience must decide which might provide a more useful safety net against a putative IRS army that is about to knock on their door.




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