On Tax Day, Chris Hayes Sticks Up for the IRS

MSNBC's Chris Hayes celebrated Tax Day by standing up for the IRS as the "cornerstone" of the federal government and lambasting Republicans for trying to gut the agency.

"Conservatives recognize that one of the only things standing between us and a genuine plutocracy are thousands of anonymous bureaucrats doing the basic work of enforcing our nation's laws," Hayes said, painting a homey picture of IRS workers holding up democracy instead of targeting Tea Party groups.

The poor IRS. Hayes says it's misunderstood and Republicans are to blame for whipping up fury over its targeting of Tea party Groups. "But conservatives don't just go after the agency's budget. Equally important is destroying its reputation. They want every American to loathe and fear the IRS as much as they do."

He emphasized the importance of the agency. How important? It's the "cornerstone" of the federal government: "But without the IRS, or something like it, we wouldn't have a government. In fact, it's the cornerstone upon which the entire edifice of the federal government is built."

He also listed Republican attempts to abolish or "hamstring" the agency, which would affect its important work of "auditing wealthy Americans."

Below is a transcript of the segment:

MSNBC
ALL IN
4/15/14
8:02 p.m. EST

CHRIS HAYES: Most people don't feel that warmly towards the Internal Revenue Service. They're the folks that many are writing a check to on this very day. But without the IRS, or something like it, we wouldn't have a government. In fact, it's the cornerstone upon which the entire edifice of the federal government is built. And that is precisely the reason conservatives have so consistently taken a sledgehammer to it. In fact, they've been at it for years.

In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich focused much of his agenda as Speaker on abolishing the agency. Even launching a national "Scrap the Tax" tour. In 1998, House Republicans voted on the Tax Code Termination Act, which intended to scrap the IRS as we currently know it.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), former House Speaker: The truth is, no tax expert in America actually understands the entire code.

STEVE LARGENT (R), former congressman: It's too complex, it's too onerous. It needs to go. We need to pull it out by its roots.

HAYES: Under George W. Bush, Republicans were at it again, trying to get rid of the tax code with the Fair Tax Act of 2003. Of 2005. And 2007. And 2011. Today, the Fair Tax Act of 2013 lives on. It would also abolish the IRS, the income tax, and repeal the 16th Amendment that allows for the income tax in the first place. In other words, good-bye to the last hundred years of American governance.

That, however, is an uphill battle, even for an empowered right-wing. So instead of getting rid of the IRS, Republicans have very successfully hollowed out and hamstrung the agency. George W. Bush did his part by slashing the number of lawyers who audited wealthy Americans. Today's Republicans are picking up right where he left off. The House subcommittee last year pushed to cut the IRS' budget by 24 percent, despite the warnings the cuts would devastate the agency. And even though they didn't get their 24 percent cut, in the bipartisan deal passed late last year, the agency's budget will be $950 million less than it was in 2010. But conservatives don't just go after the agency's budget. Equally important is destroying its reputation. They want every American to loathe and fear the IRS as much as they do. They've warned of an army of IRS agents, who would be collecting ObamaCare fines.

Sen. RAND PAUL (R-Kent.): Anybody want to fire some IRS agents? Why don't we start with the 16,000 IRS agents that are going to implement ObamaCare?

HAYES: For almost a year, they've gone to war with ex-IRS official Lois Lerner, over allegations the IRS improperly targeted certain groups.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, radio show host: When I look at this Lois Lerner, IRS babe, I see somebody who is miserable, mean, vindictive, unhappy, and vengeful.

HAYES: But, of course, this is not about Lois Lerner. This is about the fact that not only is the IRS tasked with collecting taxes from wealthy people, it's now tasked with regulating the dark money in our elections that wealthy people use to elect people to gut the tax code and the IRS.

KARL ROVE, Crossroads GPS: It's either Lois Lerner or the general council of the IRS or somebody at the White House saying, or somebody at the Treasury saying, the IRS better get on Crossroads GPS.

HAYES: Conservatives recognize that one of the only things standing between us and a genuine plutocracy are thousands of anonymous bureaucrats doing the basic work of enforcing our nation's laws.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014