WASHINGTON -- Responding to criticism over his opposition to ending tax loopholes that benefit oil companies or firms that ship jobs overseas, Scott Brown suggested in a New Hampshire Senate debate Monday that none of them should be closed to cut the deficit.
Brown, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts, and the Democrat he hopes to replace, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, were both asked how they'd start chipping away at the deficit. Shaheen suggested closing some loopholes, such as the tax breaks for oil companies and the rules that enable billionaires such as Warren Buffett to pay lower rates than their secretaries. She said the first would raise $20 billion, and the second would bring in $67 billion.
"There's real money there, and if you add it up, you begin to see the impact it would have," Shaheen said.
Brown wasn't buying it, however, saying that going after "fraud, waste and abuse" was a better idea. He also lumped all loopholes into one great big category, and suggested they should be left alone.
"The federal government has enough of our hard-earned money right now," Brown said.
"What's a loophole? Well, the investment tax credit is a loophole. The R&D tax credit is a loophole, the child care tax credit, the homeowner interest deduction," he said.
Economists and budget crunchers tend to see loopholes like Brown does -- all of a piece, and all taking their share of revenue out of the nation's coffers. But it's unlikely that many voters would equate their mortgage break or the help the tax code provides for parents with an oil company's loophole.
Indeed, Brown seemed to realize as much in defending his votes to preserve the tax breaks for oil companies, saying he wasn't trying to protect the companies as much as consumers who need to fill their gas tanks and heat their homes.