To borrow from an old joke, Democrats running against Republican incumbents this year must feel like mosquitoes in a nudist colony; there’s just so much good stuff out there that it’s hard to know where to start.
Here’s one small example.
If you owe back taxes to the federal government, the next call asking you to pay may come not from an Internal Revenue Service officer, but from a private debt collector.
Within two weeks, the I.R.S. will turn over data on 12,500 taxpayers — each of whom owes $25,000 or less in back taxes — to three collection agencies. Larger debtors will continue to be pursued by I.R.S. officers.
The move, an initiative of the Bush administration, represents the first step in a broader plan to outsource the collection of smaller tax debts to private companies over time. Although I.R.S. officials acknowledge that this will be much more expensive than doing it internally, they say that Congress has forced their hand by refusing to let them hire more revenue officers, who could pull in a lot of easy-to-collect money.
The private debt collection program is expected to bring in $1.4 billion over 10 years, with the collection agencies keeping about $330 million of that, or 22 to 24 cents on the dollar.
For more on just how stupid (and subject to abuse) this is check out Paul Krugman’s column on the topic.
I’m sure a lot of professional political consultants — you know the guys who’ve led the Democrats to defeat in each of the last three election cycles — would say I’m nuts on this, but I think this is pure political platinum.
I’ve even got a name for it: It’s called Big Government Republican Style. Here’s the pitch:
“Republicans have always claimed that they’re against big government. But then a funny thing happened when they started running the whole show in Washington. Government didn’t get smaller. It got bigger. It got a lot bigger. And you want to know something else funny: The last time a Democrat, Bill Clinton, was president government got smaller. A lot smaller.
“You see, the difference between Democrats and Republicans isn’t in the size of government. The difference is in who the government works for.
“Under Big Government Republican Style, the kind we have now, our government doesn’t work for the American people. It works for the Republican Party.
“Here’s one example out of many. The Bush Administration is hiring private companies to collect unpaid taxes. And they get to keep a big percentage of everything they collect. It’s going to cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. Everyone agrees the job could be done much more cheaply and with more protection for taxpayers if it were done by regular agents.
“So why do the Republicans want to waste our money in this way? Well, let me give you one guess as to which political party the companies getting those hundreds of millions of dollars are going to funnel campaign contributions to?
“You got it — the Republicans. And they’ll probably throw in some nice overseas junkets for Republican congressmen while they’re at it.
“It’s the same sorry story over and over again. Big Government Republican Style is all about using our government as a slush fund to pay off Republican campaign contributors. They even have a name for it — it’s called the K Street Project. That’s how brazen they’ve become. That’s how little they even try to hide it anymore.
“So what do you say? Isn’t it time that we had a government that represents and works for the people again. Isn’t it time to retire Big Government Republican Style once and for all?”