We should reform, not defund, necessary institutions

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While Newton described this phenomenon in relation to physics, the basic principle also applies to society in general.

For example, following the death of George Floyd in 2020, many municipalities across the United States took action to “defund” police to some degree. Of course, this action elicited an equal and opposite reaction: crime rose as criminals were encouraged due to a reduced police presence.

Since the summer of 2020, the “defund” movement has expanded, with some calling for the defunding of ICE, the IRS, and even the FBI. While I have some sympathy for calls for the IRS to be defunded, I also recognize that the US economy would likely collapse if the IRS were to be “defunded.”

In other words, the police, ICE, FBI, and IRS are vital institutions that must exist for society to function and thrive. Without these institutions, anarchy and chaos would likely result.

That doesn’t mean, however, that these institutions should be uncontrollable and that their often bloated budgets should keep growing. There has been much talk in recent years about the misconduct of these institutions. But the message that the solution is to “defund” these and several other institutions is a lunatic idea that would do far more harm than good.

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On the other hand, there are many valid arguments from all sides of the political spectrum that many of these institutions are in dire need of reform. For example, the IRS budget totaled $13.2 billion in 2022, an increase of more than 10 percent from the previous year. Still, the IRS’s performance over the past year has been nothing short of abysmal.

Consider this: During the 2022 tax season, the IRS only answered 10 percent of taxpayer calls. The IRS also has a major problem processing tax returns on a timely basis. As CNBC recently reported, “As of June 10, according to the IRS, there were 11 million outstanding individual returns, including filings received prior to 2022 and new returns for 2021.”

In essence, the IRS is regrettably unable to do its job. But defunding the IRS is not the solution. Nor are they dumping billions of dollars in new funding into the agency, as the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats have recently done.

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A much better approach would be a comprehensive review of the agency conducted by a bipartisan commission to make the agency more efficient, more customer service oriented, technologically up to date, etc.

A similar strategy could be applied to any institution that has become sclerotic and can no longer serve its purpose.

But many on the left and right are not calling for the “defunding” of institutions just because they are clumsy and inefficient. A large proportion of people are flocking to the Defund movement for purely ideological reasons. As we address their concerns (or lack thereof in some cases), we must scrupulously defend these institutions if and only if they serve a vital societal function.

Demands to relieve the police were at the forefront of the debate. But it is preposterous to think that any city, state or jurisdiction could function without an adequate law enforcement presence. One of the government’s primary roles is to protect the public by ensuring that law and order is maintained.

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Another method we should consider when it comes to reforming institutions that have deviated from their mission or become irresponsible is to insist on making them as local as possible. The further an institution is geographically from the people it is designed to serve, the less responsive it will be to those people.

Finally, it is imperative that these institutions, especially those funded with taxpayer money, remember that their primary purpose is to serve the American people fairly and openly. We, the people, are the ones who fund their salaries, pensions, offices, and so on. It is therefore the responsibility of the leaders of these institutions to ensure that our interests are lawfully served.

Rather than calling for the widespread “defundation” of anything we don’t like, which is an intellectually lazy approach, it would be up to all of us to call for a systemic reform of all rogue institutions central to a well-governed society.

Chris Talgo is the Editor-in-Chief of the Heartland Institute. This column was provided by InsideSources.

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