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Owens says claim of hiring 17K IRS agents is "disinformation"

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"We have to tell Bill Owens that when he said that he was going to create jobs for the 23rd district in America that we didn't want 17,000 more IRS agents. That's not what we had in mind. We didn't have in mind more government employees. We had in mind that we had to build up the private sector."

I hadn't given much thought to a comment Republican congressional candidate Doug Hoffman made last month until his would-be opponent, Rep. Bill Owens, used it as his first example of the "disinformation" about health care legislation being put out.

Mr. Owens' remarks were prompted by a question from Alan in Oswego, who had joined about 3,000 residents of the 23rd district on a AARP telephone town hall this morning.

"With all of the number of people that are going to be hired in government to run this program, how do you expect to pay for it?" asked Alan.

The congressman said some of the "disinformation" - particularly the claim about 17,000 IRS agents - had come from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a chief opponent of the recently enacted bill. He did not mention Mr. Hoffman repeating the information.

"It is a purely fictitious number that he has created. We have to be very careful that we do not fall into the trap of relying on that information," Mr. Owens said. "There is no plan to hire a significant number of government folks."

The nonpartisan FactCheck.org, which bills itself a "consumer advocate for voters" agrees that the employment figure offered by Mr. Hoffman is bogus.

"This wildly inaccurate claim started as an inflated, partisan assertion that 16,500 new IRS employees might be required to administer the new law," analyst Brooks Jackson wrote. "That devolved quickly into a claim, made by some Republican lawmakers, that 16,500 IRS 'agents' would be required. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas even claimed in a televised interview that all 16,500 would be carrying guns. None of those claims is true."

The Congressional Budget Office said there will be some new costs for the Internal Revenue Service because of the health care legislation requirements. Although it had not completed its estimate, Director Douglas W. Elmendorf said March 11 that it may cost an additional $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years for "administrative costs."

Will some of that be used to hire new agents? Sure. But the 17,000 figure "simply lacks any foundation in fact," the analyst summarizes.

The second half of Mr. Hoffman's comment is likely true. Most voters don't expect that a politician who promises to create jobs will do so by expanding the size of government. Instead, most want legislators to pass bills that make it easier and less expensive for private industry to expand here.

Mr. Owens said Tuesday that the health care reform bill is creating new opportunities for private businesses to expand, and offered two examples.

He noted that UnitedHealth Group, according to this Wall Street Journal article, want to take over state-run managed-care programs for the poor - with the company saying it could save $366 billion over the next decade by improving coordination between doctors and moving patients out of nursing homes.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal cost for expanding Medicaid will be $434 billion over the next 10 years, the paper reported.

Second, Mr. Owens said he has met with several Chambers of Commerce which are interested in offering their members a single, one-stop shop to compare different health insurance plans - instead of relying on the government to offer the same information.

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