With the midterms behind them and some significant wins for conservatives, Congress wasted no time last week in doing what they do best -- screwing America's middle class and working poor.
Every year Congress ritualistically renews a package of "temporary" tax breaks for corporations in a process commonly referred to as "tax extenders" because they extend temporary tax breaks. This year, however, they want to make these breaks permanent -- particularly the ones that benefit large corporations and political donors. It's a process that the Washington Post refers to as "a periodic bonanza for lobbyists."
This particular bonanza is in the neighborhood of $450 billion.
It's a fiscal potpourri made up of some items that are large and rational (a business credit for research and development) and some that are small and parochial (a break on auto racetracks).
The majority of the loopholes and breaks are nothing more than handouts to the already rich and super rich. Depreciation tax breaks for people who own racehorses and loopholes that encourage corporations to move their profits offshore.
Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen pointed out that companies renouncing their U.S. citizenship would benefit substantially from these breaks, saying:
The package would provide a permanent boon to large corporations, even those that renounce their U.S. citizenship and invert. And adding insult to injury, the proposed deal chooses to leave behind working families and would make things harder for millions of Americans.
These breaks and loopholes, unlike ones in the past, will not be paid for -- they'll just add to the deficit.
Remember when Congress rejected extending long-term unemployment benefits or couldn't approve fixing the country's infrastructure because it wasn't "paid for"? Even disaster relief was held up because it wasn't "paid for." Somehow, $450 billion for corporations and people who own racehorses isn't as big of a deal.
The deal also has some cuts that will harm the very voters who elected the new bunch into office in this last round -- those that benefit from the Earned-Income Credit and the Child Tax Credit, both of which were expanded by Obama's stimulus package in 2009.
Left off were the two tax breaks valued most by liberal Democrats: a permanently expanded earned-income credit and a child tax credit for the working poor. Friday night, Republican negotiators announced they would exclude those measures as payback for the president's executive order on immigration, saying a surge of newly legalized workers would claim the credit, tax aides from both parties said.
So, because there are some people coming into this country who might benefit from these tax breaks, we're going to take them away from people who have relied on them to survive? The problem with this line of reasoning is while it may serve to satisfy an urge for vengeance, it assumes that all of the potential immigrants who will benefit from Obama's executive order are poor and it harms the very people who elected this Congress.
According to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute, white working-class voters (specifically those without college degrees and working hourly wage jobs) voted for Republicans over Democrats in a 61 percent to 26 percent margin. Another study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that a vast majority of people who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit are white and earn enough money to see their taxes go up without the credit. The Child Tax Credit, also extended in 2009 to make more working-class families eligible, would affect more families in poverty -- 50 percent of whom are white.
Once again the people of this fine country have voted against their own best interest and Congress has not disappointed them.
Also on the list of those left to expire are credits to develop wind power, deemed unfair by the oil and gas companies who receive billions in subsidies as it is. Maybe not ironically, this comes just as the cost of providing electricity from wind and solar energy has become more affordable than coal or natural gas. Much of this was made possible by the subsidies that are set to expire.
The Koch brothers, who have raked in billions from their fossil fuel empire, have been throwing piles of money at Congress to put a stop to this wind thing.
Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action for America and others want Republicans to capitalize on their election victory by killing some of the tax "extenders" they've long hated, such as a one subsidizing the wind energy industry. Americans for Prosperity said it will spend $200,000 targeting 25 House Republicans on the wind issue. Among them: Reps. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.), Larry Bucshon (Ind.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Michael Turner (Ohio). Koch brothers representatives have met with House Speaker John Boehner's staff in recent weeks to urge him to dump the provision.
Thankfully, President Obama has promised to veto the bill. According to Roll Call, the deputy White House press secretary, Jen Friedman, said, "The president would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families."
According to the article, it could also potentially turn Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp's (R-MI) own tax reform plan into a $450 billion tax increase, presumably violating the Americans for Tax Reform's pledge, signed by most Republicans, to not raise taxes. Not that they've historically been concerned about keeping promises or honoring pledges.
Obama has some support in this action by a handful of liberal Democrats in Congress. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was on MSNBC's The Ed Show Tuesday night and while he says he supports the president's threat to veto the bill he disagrees with the premise that the bill was designed to screw working families purely out of spite.
When Ed Shultz asked Sanders if he bought into the conversation that these actions were to get back at the president for his executive action on immigration, Sanders responded, "Nah. I think this is part of the general republican DNA. Their job is to protect the interests of the wealthy and most powerful corporations in America and they could care less about low income working families."
So once again, whether their actions are based on something as simple as political DNA or a plot to retaliate against the president by taking hostages and wiping out villages, Congress, led by the GOP, is working hard to hurt the very people who elected them and helping the ones who got them elected.
Apparently, working in the best interest of their constituents is considered an unnatural act.
Read more at nowitcounts.com