Many have noted that the numbers do not add up. While Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter ordering that the new agents should not be used to audit people making less than 400k, it is hard to see where the required $204 billion will come from. Some estimates suggest that an increase of 30 times in such audits would still fall short of the $35.3 billion sought in 2031.
However, there is as much as $160 billion in alleged fraud of Covid checks. The government simply sent out billions with little review or confirmation during the pandemic. Now, the New York Times reports that a relatively small number of investigators is overwhelmed by the numbers and unlikely to pursue most of this money: “There are currently 500 people working on pandemic-fraud cases across the offices of 21 inspectors general, plus investigators from the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.”
The problem is that pursuing such fraud is also an indictment of Congress and the executive agencies, which tossed aside controls in the rush to get money out the door during the pandemic. Moreover, much of the fraud is not being committed by the “wealthy” class — the favorite target of leaders like Warren. It is more difficult to prosecute these individuals and attempt to recoup property.
It is also inconsistent with the focus of these politicians on the most wealthy as tax cheats and scofflaws. They have been presented as a bottomless pit of money — making any spending bill “free.” When President Joe Biden struggled to get the massive new spending bill through Congress in 2021, he turned to a pitch that would make Joe Isuzu blush: “We talk about price tags. It is zero price tag” and “My Build Back Better agenda costs zero dollars.” The trillions in spending is “free” — according to Biden — because others will pay for it. It’s like claiming your college tuition was free because your parents got the bill.
Biden is hardly the first politician to shrug off spending by saying “the rich will pay for it.” Indeed, during the Democratic primary, the candidates lined up behind figures like New York Mayor Bill De Blasio declaring “we will tax the hell out of the wealthy.”
Pursuing Covid relief fraud would not exactly fit the “eat the rich” theme that is so popular today. It would also highlight their own failure in ignoring objections at the time that there were few protections in place to shield against fraud. So the solution is simple. Add 87,000 to target wealthy Americans to seek $204 billion to pay for this bill while leaving 500 IG employees working with other agencies to pursue $160 billion in Covid fraud. In Washington, this makes absolute sense.