A late-night television rant on why we need the IRS doesn't sound like material for a must-watch YouTube clip. But political satirist and Last Week Tonight host John Oliver made the government agency look downright sympathetic during his show on Sunday by saying, "Not everything that's important is likable. Think of our government as a body. The IRS is the anus: It's nobody's favorite part, but you need that thing working properly or everything goes to shit real quick."
The metaphor seems crudely fitting, and that message was driven home by Oliver's musical guest, Michael Bolton, whose accompanying song included him crooning the word "anus." Oliver argued that the IRS, more specifically, IRS employees, deserve a little compassion in lieu of the copious disdain from the American public. The nearly 20-minute segment presented some sad facts of the IRS work environment, including this kicker: the IRS lost over 13,000 employees between 2010 and 2014. Now, the majority of IRS employees are over 50 and less than 1 percent are under 25.
But "dealing with them is obligatory," says Oliver. "It often functions badly. And it combines two of the things we hate most in life: someone taking our money and math." That's a reasonable point. Follow that up with the dire case of the IRS's struggle with consistent budget cuts from Congress and a lack of technology (records are stored on magnetic tape) and it's amazing that the IRS can stomach being the IRS.