The good news — Barack Obama has finally found a way to use a half-billion dollars to fund job creation, unlike at Solyndra, where both the money and the jobs disappeared. The bad news? They’ll all be IRS enforcers for a law that has a pretty good chance of getting mooted in the next few months:
The Obama administration is quietly diverting roughly $500 million to the IRS to help implement the president’s healthcare law.
The money is only part of the IRS’s total implementation spending, and it is being provided outside the normal appropriations process. The tax agency is responsible for several key provisions of the new law, including the unpopular individual mandate.
Not just including the individual mandate — it’s almost entirely for enforcing the individual mandate. Most of the taxes included in the ObamaCare bill have already gone into effect. While a few remain to be triggered, the new efforts for which the IRS must prepare have to do almost exclusively with enforcing the mandate and distributing subsidies for taxpayers to spend to comply with it.
Estimates of the personnel and resources needed to enforce this provision have varied widely. In 2010, Rep. Paul Ryan put the number at 15,000 and Sen. John Barrasso estimated the ten-year costs at $5 billion, which the White House sharply denied at the time. If the Obama administration needs $500 million as a first-year start-up to get the IRS prepared for enforcement, then Barrasso’s estimate appears to be spot-on.
How has the White House managed to get that money without Congress’ approval? The Hill reports that Obama is draining a source that Congressional Republicans have already described as a “slush fund”:
The law contains dozens of targeted appropriations to implement specific provisions. It also gave the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) a $1 billion implementation fund, to use as it sees fit. Republicans have called it a “slush fund.”
HHS plans to drain the entire fund by September — before the presidential election, and more than a year before most of the healthcare law takes effect. Roughly half of that money will ultimately go to the IRS.
HHS has transferred almost $200 million to the IRS over the past two years and plans to transfer more than $300 million this year, according to figures provided by a congressional aide.
Thanks to the ambiguity of the legislation passed by Democrats alone in 2010, this transfer is perfectly legal, since the funds were intended for “federal” implementation of ObamaCare. Nevertheless, spending this money now while the Supreme Court weighs the merits of the individual mandate and the PPACA as a whole seems a lot like the rush to spend money on Solyndra. Why not wait for mid-summer to see whether there will be a mandate to enforce? Without the mandates, the exchanges and the subsidies will collapse, and the IRS will not have needed those resources nor the thousands of employees they will fund (537 for managing the subsidies alone, another 300 to manage the as-yet-unapplied taxes, and an uncounted horde to ensure that each individual in America has bought his Patriotic And Approved Health Insurance).
I’m guessing that this will be exactly like Solyndra. Obama will have spent a half-billion dollars on a product that never comes to market, and on jobs that never materialize.