The IRS office in Jefferson City was closed for nearly a month. The three weeks of the center’s closure came during tax season.
Although it has re-opened well before this year’s April 18th tax deadline, it’s an issue that has drawn the attention of U.S. Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer.
As our guest for “This Week,” I start our conversation by asking the Congressman about the taxpayer assistance center in our Capital City.
This is a transcript of our conversation:
Blaine Luetkemeyer: I mean, this is the height of bureaucratic incompetence. And, we increased the IRS budget to 290 million dollars only in the area for consumer services. We didn’t plus up any of the rest of this budget. Only in consumer services and here we have an example of them, in my judgement, mismanaging this office. And their alternative is, “Well, call our 1-800 number and we will take care of you that way.” Statistically it’s shown that only 38 percent of the people that call get through. The other 62 percent never get through. They are hung up on, or they get tired of sitting there waiting and hang up themselves. So, that is not good service and we believe that our citizens deserve better than that. This is, like I said, bureaucratic incompetence to manage the office that way and we are not going to let them get away with that. We are going to keep pushing to try and get this thing solved so it doesn’t happen again.
Joey Parker: We have a copy of the letter that the IRS sent you, or Department of the Treasury anyway. You are not satisfied with that? They didn’t open the office until just last week.
Blaine Luetkemeyer: Right
JOEY: What is your next course of action with the IRS?
Blaine Luetkemeyer: Obviously, we are going to continue to push them to not have this happen again, and have this office fully staffed. And if they do have an opening, say for instance, this person goes on vacation for a week we want to be notified so that they are going to have a replacement in office. This can’t happen again in the middle of tax season.
Joey Parker: Your other main focus has been “Operation Choke Point.” We talked about it the last time you were here were talking about it again. You’ve reintroduced legislation to fight this operation. Choke Point, of course for people who don’t understand what that is, is where banks can basically pick and choose who they want to do business with right?
Blaine Luetkemeyer: Yes. The banks are being forced to pick and choose. The FDIC and the Department of Justice have a program called “Operation Choke Point” and in that program there is supposed to be going out and using it to punish the money launderers, However, that is not what they are doing. What they are doing, in reality, is intimidating banks into no longer doing business with people who are operating legally. One of our committees that the Government Oversight Committee had a report on both the DOJ and the FDIC and got their internal emails. And from those emails we saw that, even within both agencies, they don’t believe they have the right to do this. And they know what they are doing wrong, and they know that there is collateral damage here by getting rid of all the people in the certain industry verses a particular one that is doing something illegal.
Joey Parker: You say that if it is payday lending, for example, one of these things that some people call predatory lending, pass laws to stop. Just don’t do it this way. That is your argument.
Blaine Luetkemeyer: Sure. And the DOJ’s argument is that they don’t have enough resources to go after individual companies here, or an individual person there. If they do this method, which is get rid of everybody within the entire industry they get rid of the bad actor well what you do is have a lot of collateral damage that a lot of innocent people who worked their entire lives to put together businesses. That’s not who we are. The marketplace decides who wins and loses…who lives and dies. It’s not the government’s job to pick the winners and losers.
Joey Parker: Speaking of some businesses we don’t like, and not to be too flippant, but politics (is one of those) for a lot of people. A lot of people say that you have to be billionaire, or you have to be nuts to go to D.C. You want to go back and you are running for reelection.
Blaine Luetkemeyer: Yes. We are going to be filing shortly. Filing opens up next week. That first day is the day that I’ll probably going to be in D.C. because of some commitments. So, I’ll be filing a little bit later than the first week. We’re going to file. My family has agreed that we’re doing things that are making a difference and they are supporting of me. So, we’re jump in and doing it one more time and we’ll see. We take this a term at a time
Joey Parker: “One more time” means you are going to do it again, and then you’ll feel it out to see what happens?
Blaine Luetkemeyer: We do this every time, Joey. What we do is we sit down with the family, We say can you guys put up with what’s going on? What’s going on with me? What’s going on with our job? Is it affecting you? Is it affecting our family in a way we can continue to work with. If they say “yes,” then we jump in and my attention is to do this for a while. I believe that we are getting the job done in D.C. with the seniority that I have. And I am now subcommittee chair, I have a lot of oversight on a lot of issues and as a result were getting to the point where we can really make a difference for my constituents. I think that is important to be able to have that opportunity to be able to do that. To be able to make a difference for my constituents on a lot of different issues, So, as long as the family is agreeable, I will continue this for a while.
Joey Parker: Representative Luetkemeyer, thank you.
Blaine Luetkemeyer: Thank you it was my pleasure, Joey. I appreciate it.