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Friday, January 04, 2013

Another emergency that hasn't gone to waste

There is more money in corporate tax breaks in the fiscal cliff agreement than revenue scheduled to be gained from the tax hikes on the rich. Timothy Carney has run the numbers.
Think about this: just the business and energy tax extenders reduce federal revenue by $67.7 billion in 2013. The tax hikes on the rich Obama won — higher rates on those over $400,000 and reduced deductions on those over $250,000 — raise $620 billion over a decade. As far as I know, we can safely guess that this would be less than $62 billion in 2013.

Unless I’m missing something, the special-interest tax breaks Obama demanded look to be bigger than the money he raised by taxing the rich. If he had just let all these special tax breaks expire — like wind tax credits, algae subsidies, and railroad track maintenance — it would have raised more revenue than his tax hikes on rich individuals and small businesses.
There are corporate benefits for liquor companies, green-energy companies, and Hollywood studios and other groups whose lobbyists were successful. Kinda cozy how that all worked out, isn't it?
The Senators even voted down, 14-10, an amendment to list the corporate interests that receive tax perks on a government website. This "tax extenders" bill passed Mr. Baucus's committee, 19-5 (see the table nearby), and then sat waiting until Harry Reid and the White House stuffed it wholesale into the "fiscal cliff" bill.

Thus Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow was able to retain an accelerated tax write-off for owners of Nascar tracks (cost: $78 million) to benefit the paupers who control the Michigan International Speedway. New Mexico's Jeff Bingaman saved a tax credit for companies operating in American Samoa ($62 million), including a StarKist factory.

Distillers are able to drink to a $222 million rum tax rebate. Perhaps this will help to finance more of those fabulous Bacardi TV ads with all those beautiful rich people. Businesses located on Indian reservations will receive $222 million in accelerated depreciation. And there are breaks for railroads, "New York Liberty Zone" bonds and so much more.

But a special award goes to Chris Dodd, the former Senator who now roams Gucci Gulch lobbying for Hollywood's movie studios. The Senate summary of his tax victory is worth quoting in full: "The bill extends for two years, through 2013, the provision that allows film and television producers to expense the first $15 million of production costs incurred in the United States ($20 million if the costs are incurred in economically depressed areas in the United States)."

You gotta love that "depressed areas" bit. The impoverished impresarios of Brentwood get an extra writeoff if they take their film crews into, say, deepest Flatbush. Is that because they have to pay extra to the caterers from Dean & DeLuca to make the trip? It sure can't be because they hire the jobless locals for the production crew. Those are union jobs, mate, and don't you forget it.
And since tax hikes rarely garner the amount of revenue predicted, the disparity will be even worse. It seems that an emergency never does go to waste.

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