Right-wing media have continued to peddle misinformation about the Inflation Reduction Act as the legislation worked its way through Congress and found its way to President Joe Biden’s desk. The bill passed the House and Senate on August 7 and August 12, respectively, and was signed into law on August 16.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is the combination tax and climate bill that includes a 15% minimum corporate tax rate, a budget increase for the IRS, and tax credits for green energy, among numerous other provisions. It specifically does not raise taxes on individual taxpayers. Yet, right-wing media has been spreading the lie that the bill would increase taxes on individuals, mostly based on a report by the Joint Committee on Taxation that omitted key data. Many of these misleading attacks on the bill have persisted for weeks.
Initially, Right-wing media personalities echoed a misleading claim that a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the IRA said people making under $400,000 will pay an additional $20 billion in taxes over the next 10 years without the caveat that CBO analyses at that long term, by CBO's own admission, aren't accurate.
After the bill passed the Senate, right-wing media introduced another line of attack, claiming the law will not lower inflation. Many estimates do project the legislation will lower inflation over the next several years. Even the Congressional Budget Office estimate, used by conservatives to claim that the bill won’t reduce inflation, estimates a downward pressure on inflation over multiple years.
Right-wing media have also fixated on the budget increase for the IRS, saying that the agency will be empowered to target Republicans, and working- or middle-class Americans with up to 87,000 new armed IRS agents. In reality, the IRS has previously stated that it would use a budget increase to hire new employees across the agency, including auditing, IT, and taxpayer services. The majority of those employees are expected to replace retiring IRS employees, and only a small number are armed special agents.The IRS also aims to crack down on tax evasion strategies employed by the rich and major corporations.
But these facts haven't stopped conservative media figures from pushing these same myths and falsehoods to attack the IRA.
Myth: Right-wing media claim bill won’t reduce inflation
- Fox News host news Sean Hannity claimed the bill would increase inflation on his radio show, calling it, “The Inflation Increasing Act — 230 economists agree with me — or a Destroy the American Economy Act, or an Embolden the IRS Act, or Tax the Poor and Middle Class and People on Fixed Income to Death Act.” [Premiere Radio Networks, Hannity Radio, 8/8/22]
- Breitbart published an article titled, “Senate Passes $700 Billion ‘Inflation Reduction’ Bill,” which claims the bill won’t reduce inflation and excoriates Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) for supporting it. According to the article, “Perhaps ironically for Manchin, the bill would not reduce inflation, according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).” [Breitbart, 8/7/22]
- On Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt also claimed the bill would not reduce inflation. According to Earhardt, “It was build back better and now Republicans are calling it the social spending and taxation bill. The Democrats want you to believe it's the Inflation Reduction Act, but every outside expert has said if it does help it won't help for years.” Earhardt is one of the few prominent examples to note that experts do say that the bill could reduce inflation in the long term. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/22]
- On Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Brian Brenberg claimed the bill would make inflation worse. Brenberg said, “It's not going to do anything for inflation. That's obvious. If you have inflation you don't want to spend half a trillion more that's going to make inflation worse. When you are in a recession you don't want to tax businesses that'll get passed on to consumers and workers. That'll make things worse. This bill magically does the exact opposite of what our economy needs right now." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/22]
- Fox News guest David Avella also claimed the bill won’t decrease inflation and excoriated Democrats for lying. Avella said, “At some point voters say we're tired of being lied to about these policies coming out of the Democratic Party.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 8/15/22]
- Fox host Steve Doocy said that the “hilariously titled … Inflation Reduction Act, it doesn't actually reduce inflation.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/15/22]
Fact: The CBO estimate still expects inflation to decrease in the long term and over 100 experts believe the IRA will put downward pressure on inflation
In some cases, right-wing media have fixated on whether the bill lives up to its “Inflation Reduction Act” name while ignoring the aspects of the bill that will help people access health care and reduce the impacts of climate change. Additionally, right-wing media have dismissed a report that inflation did not increase in July while raving that the Inflation Reduction Act will do nothing to decrease inflation.
Multiple experts have stated they believe the law will reduce costs for everyday Americans. In a letter to Congress, 126 economists endorsed the bill, writing, “This proposal addresses some of the country’s biggest challenges at a significant scale. And because it is deficit-reducing, it does so while putting downward pressure on inflation.”
The Center for American Progress has also thrown support behind the Inflation Reduction Act for its provisions aimed at reducing health care costs and the downward pressure it will put on inflation through “fairer taxes; increase[d] supply through investments in manufacturing and clean energy; and cut[ting] costs for energy, health care, and prescription drugs.”
Myth: Right-wing media claim taxes will increase for the average American
- Fox guest Brandon Arnold repeated the Joint Committee on Taxation findings about the IRA without the caveat that they were an incomplete analysis. According to Arnold, “It's not just going to hurt corporate America and the fat cats out there. It's going to cost people making $200,000 or less a combined $17 billion in higher taxes at a time when people are struggling to keep above water.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 8/8/22]
- On America’s Newsroom, co-anchor Bill Hemmer claimed the bill would raise taxes for everyday people. Hemmer said, “Raising taxes in a recession, that’s what Democrats did over the weekend. Will it cost them in November? What will it cost you as well?” He went on to say the bill would spend “hundreds of billions for climate change,” adding that it would include “deficit reduction and tax hikes,” and “could also turbocharge the IRS." [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 8/8/22]
- Fox contributor Andy Puzder claimed that the IRA will increase taxes by $20 billion and is decreasing American’s motivation to work. According to Puzder, “Inflation is already killing you, and now you are being told that the government has hired like 80,000 auditors to come in and increase your taxes by $20 billion. … No wonder people are saying why should I go to work?” [Fox News, America Reports, 8/15/22]
- Fox host Pete Hegseth claimed that middle America is “where the money is,” and that Democrats are lying by saying that the bill won’t tax people who make less than $400,000 a year. He does not acknowledge that the bill does not actually include tax hikes on individuals. [Fox News, Unfiltered with Dan Bongino, 8/14/22]
Fact: The IRA targets large corporations, not individual taxpayers
The Inflation Reduction Act only increases taxes on corporations with at least $1 billion in annual revenue. Claims that the law would raise taxes on lower- and middle-income workers are based on a misinterpretation of a Joint Committee on Taxation report commissioned by Republicans, which does not include taxpayer savings from the multiple new tax credits contained within the bill.
Another report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office claims to show the legislation would increase audit rates and therefore tax revenue from some individuals making less than $400,000 - because the IRS would be empowered to crack down on tax evasion. In reality, that enforcement is specifically aimed at taxpayers making over $400,000, and yet news of the IRS’s budget increase has sent Fox News into a frenzy, especially Tucker Carlson, who pushed the inflammatory claim that the government is sending “87,000 armed IRS agents to make sure you obey.”
Myth: Right-wing media claim budget allocated to the IRS will be used to target average people
- On Twitter, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' rapid response director wrote, “Every candidate running for Congress this year needs to go on the record about what they will do with the massive power grab the DC swamp just passed to terrorize and impoverish the American people. Will you defund the 87,000 new IRS agents or not?!” [Twitter, 8/8/22]
- On Twitter, Trump ally Nick Adams made the misleading claim that, “the IRS is going to have over 100,000 more agents than Border Patrol. Let that sink in.” [Twitter, 8/8/22]
- Fox News contributor Sean Duffy pushed the narrative that the IRS will be sent to target the GOP and the middle class. Duffy repeatedly said that the IRS budget increase was not about raising taxes, but “punishing” GOP supporters and the middle and lower class. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 8/9/22]
- Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed the IRS is a new “militia” that the Democrats are going to sic on Republicans. According to Ingraham, the IRS is “part of the new Democrat Party militia, economic financial militia against regular people,” and the “87,000 new IRS agents will be aimed almost solely at Republicans.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 8/8/22]
- On Tucker Carlson Tonight, former adviser to President Trump and white nationalist Stephen Miller said the IRS is being sent to target political organizations along with the middle class. According to Miller, the Inflation Reduction Act will “further put a bureaucracy, that is lifetime appointed and unelected, in charge of our political system. It's very frightening.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 8/8/22]
- On Fox & Friends, Fox News host Lawrence Jones complained about the bill’s provision for hiring new IRS workers and said Biden should instead send more border agents to the U.S.-Mexico border. Jones said, “We say that we really don't like the IRS and we want you to send agents to our southern border. They say that we’re just going to take the money and invest billions of dollars into new IRS agents.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/22]
- On America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen said that hiring a bunch of new IRS workers takes people out of an already tight labor market and would only increase audits on middle-income people. He said the US is in a “labor shortage” and the “answer of the federal government is to go and pass money to dip into the labor pool and take 87,000 workers out of the productive sector of the economy in order to sic the IRS on auditing Americans.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 8/8/22]
- On America’s Newsroom, conservative talk show host and columnist Guy Benson said Democrats were being disingenuous about not wanting to target middle-class and low-income people with IRS audits. He said, “The Democrats are doubling in this bill the size of the IRS — hiring tens of thousands of new employees, agents, auditors. And they swear up and down, ‘Oh no, this is not intended for anyone making less than $400,000, this is only for the rich and those evil corporations.’ And their buddies at the IRS say ‘Oh yes trust us, that's true. There’s no intent there for middle class or working class Americans.’ But there are all sorts of indications that yes, ordinary Americans would be in the crosshairs of more audits.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 8/8/22]
Fact: The money allocated to the IRS is meant to shore up an aging and underfunded government agency
One of the most blatantly false pieces of misinformation consistently pushed by the right-wing media on the Inflation Reduction Act is the claim that 87,000 new IRS agents are coming to audit lower- and middle-income households. This claim is based on the admission that the underfunded IRS would use a budget increase to hire 87,000 people. In reality, most of those hires are to replace retiring employees and expand its currently understaffed workforce. The agency is not doubling in size.
Over the last 10 years the IRS has lost about 10,000 employees and is expecting to lose about 50,000 more employees to retirement in the next five to six years. Additionally, the IRA budget is intended to be allocated to the IRS over the next 10 years in order to shore up staffing to old levels and replace retiring staffers. There is no immediate wave of 87,000 agents coming for American’s money. Many of the new hires will be for roles other than enforcement including IT and taxpayer support staff. The budget that is going toward enforcement is explicitly for targeting wealthier tax evaders, not people making less than $400,000 as right-wing media claims.