In Comedy Central Interview, POTUS Makes Laughable Excuses for Scandals at the VA and the IRS

If only American workers were forking over bigger portions of their paychecks to the federal government. And if only there were more bureaucrats in Washington. Then the federal government could finally do its job, and do it right.

These are President Obama’s fervently held beliefs, and last night, he appeared on the Comedy Central channel to spread his gospel of big government.

“If we’re under-resourcing our government, and not staffing it the way it needs to be to do everything that’s done, then we shouldn’t be surprised that there are going to be gaps,” he said, without a hint of joking.

This is how he excused his failure to keep his promises and fix the deadly mismanagement and deliberate deception at the VA, where veterans still have to wait months and months to see a doctor, and where many were placed on secret waiting lists to be forgotten for good.

But here’s a key question: how much money does it take to make bad VA employees care about their patients? How much money does it take for them to be honest in their work? Apparently a lot – the VA has doled out millions of dollars in bonuses, but its employees are still engaged in wrongdoing. Of course, there’s virtually no accountability in the Obama administration: only two VA officials have been fired for their misdeeds.

As for funding, the VA’s budget has increased from $45 billion in 2000 to more than $153 billion today – an increase of 240 percent. From 2000 to 2013, medical care spending at the VA rose 193 percent while the number of VA patients increased only 68 percent. In less than five years, the VA spent half a billion dollars to upgrade conference rooms, buy draperies, and purchase new office furniture, and a Denver hospital construction project is more than $1 billion over budget and years behind schedule. Veterans groups, newspaper editorial boards, and even some Democrats all agree: funding is not the issue.

Those are the facts, but the president has never let them get in his way when it comes to shifting blame or covering up scandals. And last night, he also proselytized his faith in more funding as part of an absurd attempt to rewrite the indisputable history of the IRS scandal:

“I’ll give you an example: when there was that problem with the IRS. … [People said,] ‘Look, you have this back office, and they’re going after the tea party.’ Well, it turned out, no, Congress had passed a crummy law that didn’t give people guidance in terms of what it was they were trying to do. … But the truth of the matter is, is that there was not some big conspiracy there. They were trying to sort out these conflicting demands: you don’t want all this money pouring through not-for-profits, but you also want to make sure that everyone is being treated fairly. Now, the real scandal around the IRS right now is, is that it has been so poorly funded that … they cannot go after these folks who are deliberately avoiding tax payments.”

Here’s the truth:

  • The targeting was not directed by a “back office” in Cincinnati.

Lois Lerner was the Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS in Washington, D.C. As The Wall Street Journal noted, “In a February 2011 email, Ms. Lerner advised her staff—including then Exempt Organizations Technical Manager Michael Seto and then Rulings and Agreements director Holly Paz—that a Tea Party matter is ‘very dangerous,’ and is something ‘Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on.’ Ms. Lerner adds, ‘Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.’”

  • The targeting was not an innocent mistake due to a lack of “guidance.”

The Wall Street Journal has also debunked this “fairy tale,” writing: “The current rules governing 501(c)(4)s have existed, unchanged, since 1959. Prior to 2010 the IRS processed and approved tax-exempt applications in fewer than three months with no apparent befuddlement. The IRS hyper-scrutiny of conservative groups only began in 2010 amid the Obama Administration's larger political attack on political donors like the Koch brothers, and emails show that IRS officials were acutely aware of this political environment. … [A]pplications were routed through the offices of Mrs. Lerner and Obama-appointed IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, and long approval delays ensued.”

  • The targeting was a “big conspiracy.”

Merriam-Webster’s definition of a conspiracy is “the act of secretly planning to do something that is harmful or illegal,” which accurately describes IRS officials’ behavior. Senate Democrats urged the IRS to target conservative groups. Former IRS official Lois Lerner is a registered Democrat who referred to Republicans as “crazies” and “a—holes” in official emails, and she half-joked about going to work for President Obama’s political organization, Organizing For Action (OFA). Additionally, “a June 14, 2012 email from Treasury career attorney Ruth Madrigal to key IRS officials in the tax-exempt department, including former director Lois Lerner …. cites a blog post about the political activity of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups and reads: ‘Don't know who in your organizations [sic] is keeping tabs on c4s, but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off-plan) in 2013, I've got my radar up and this seemed interesting,’” The Wall Street Journal explained. “The IRS typically puts out a public schedule of coming regulations, and [former Ways and Means Chairman Dave] Camp noted that in this case ‘off-plan’ appears to mean ‘hidden from the public.’” Lerner eventually invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate herself, and the investigation continues into whether she purposely destroyed her hard drive and any damning evidence.

  • The targeting did not involve liberal and conservative groups “being treated fairly.”

With the political allegiances of those involved in the scandal pretty obvious, it’s not a surprise that liberal groups were left alone. As PolitiFact concluded, “Yes, some progressive groups did have their tax-exempt status applications flagged as the IRS reviewed whether nonprofit groups were engaging in political activities. But it wasn’t to the same degree as tea party and other conservative groups, nor did it result in the same actions. The list targeting tea party groups resulted in delayed processing that in some cases lasted almost three years and inquiries into their donors. Further, the inspector general found tea party groups were systematically singled out as part of an office-wide effort, while progressive groups were not.”

  • The targeting was not due to a lack of resources.

Initially, Democrats attempted to justify the targeting by claiming that applications for (c)(4) status had increased dramatically, and that IRS staff was forced to create a system to deal with the influx. But the data show applications actually declined, as The Atlantic and The Chronicle of Philanthropy both pointed out.

  • The IRS has failed to prioritize customer service.

The IRS’s budget has been reduced significantly, and rightly so given its corrupt and possibly criminal behavior. But instead of managing resources appropriately, “it has prioritized worker bonuses, union activity and the implementation of President Obama’s health care law over assisting taxpayers during tax season.” Furthermore, as the Ways and Means Committee noted, “At the end of fiscal year 2014, the IRS estimated total tax delinquency was 3.12 percent for federal employees, representing over $3.5 billion owed in taxes.”