When disgraced former IRS official Lois Lerner first admitted in 2013 during a staged apology that her agency had targeted conservative groups, a few news organizations scrambled immediately to help the White House manage its damage control efforts.

And as the scandal continues to plod along, Congress holding one hearing after another, these same news groups haven't let up in their defense of the White House or the IRS.

Take, for example, the New York Times' latest (and familiar) defense of the IRS.

As it turns out, according to the Times, the real scandal isn’t that the IRS admittedly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. It’s that Republicans have supposedly crippled the IRS with devastating budget cuts, clearing the way for the so-called 1 percent to avoid paying its “fair share.”

“[T]he real scandal is what Republicans did to cripple the agency when virtually no one was looking,” the Times' editorial board lamented. “Since the broad Tea Party-driven spending cuts of 2010, the agency's budget has been cut by 14 percent after inflation is considered, leading to sharply reduced staff, less enforcement of the tax laws and poor taxpayer service.”

The editorial continues, complaining loudly that although the middle-class may welcome the idea of fewer audits, IRS audits really only apply to the super-wealthy (whom Republicans are of course protecting).

And consider this: “[I]n 2013, [the IRS] audited only 24 percent of returns over $10 million, compared with 30 percent in 2010. Of returns reporting between $1 million and $5 million, it audited 16 percent in 2013, compared with 21 percent in 2010.”

The assumption, of course, is that more audits are a good thing. Because the super-wealthy are always trying to keep their money!

Fewer audits are “great news for the nation's highest-income taxpayers, many of whom donate generously to Republican politicians to keep their taxes low,” the editorial adds, apparently oblivious to the fact that the Democratic Party has long enjoyed the backing of the deep-pocketed billionaire donors as well as unions and the entertainment industry.

The terrifying result of fewer audits and the dastardly 1 percent evading IRS scrutiny is that there will be less federal funds for building roads and keeping the air clean, the editorial warns.

The IRS really needs that tax money, it adds.

House Republicans have proposed cutting IRS funding by yet another $341 million in 2015, to $10.9 billion,” the Times notes, adding that the conservative lawmakers would “also would outlaw the agency's collection of the health law's individual mandate penalty.”

“President Obama’s budget, by contrast, would increase the agency’s spending by $1.2 billion compared with this year’s — not nearly enough, but at least a start in reversing a troubling trend and letting the IRS do its job of collecting the money to pay for essential government services,” the editorial adds.

In short, according to the Times, Republican lawmakers have crippled the IRS from performing its duties as a federal agency, creating a situation where Americans will be forced to drive on broken bridges so that they can breathe dirty air.

But here’s something funny: The IRS’ budget has seen cuts since 2010, setting back its enforcement capabilities, but you wouldn’t know it if based on the millions it has doled out in bonuses to its employees.

“The Internal Revenue Service has paid more than $2.8 million in bonuses to employees with recent disciplinary problems, including $1 million to workers who owed back taxes,” the Associated Press reported in April.

“In the 2011 budget year, more than 70,000 IRS workers got cash bonuses totaling $92 million, the report said. In the 2012 budget year, nearly 68,000 workers got cash bonuses totaling $86 million,” the report added.

So yes, the poor, ragtag IRS has been terribly damaged by Republicans. But hush your mouth about those bonuses. Those agents earned that money (not like those filthy Republican donors).

But honestly, can we drop the kneejerk "the-IRS-just-needs-more-funding" defense?

The IRS admitted to improperly targeting groups. That was the message of Lerner’s staged apology.

This is just embarrassing.