Judging from some of the goodies quietly tucked into the “fiscal cliff” agreement, some Washington lawmakers are driving public policy like madmen and don’t belong behind the wheel of anyone’s economy.
Let’s start, since it’s so near and dear in this neck of the woods, with NASCAR. Formally called The American Taxpayer Relief Act, the fiscal cliff deal earmarks an estimated $70 million over the next two years in tax breaks for the upkeep of “motorsports entertainment complexes.”
In plain English, this means racetrack owners get to depreciate assets such as tracks, bleachers and concession stands at a faster rate than other businesses. This permits those owners to deduct more in their expenses, reducing the taxes they owe.
The International Speedway Corp., which owns and runs 13 NASCAR tracks, including raceways in Martinsville, Va., Richmond, Va., and Darlington, S.C., has spent more than $1.1 million lobbying Congress for the breaks over the last five years. Supporters of the incentive contend that it will “maintain the current standard expected by our competitors and fans.”
Not on the taxpayers’ dime it shouldn’t. And especially not in a deal that is supposed to lead the way to more grown-up legislation and some sense of fiscal prudence.
For the record, the NASCAR sweeteners are not technically earmarks, or “pork,” which Congress has technically banned. They’re called “extenders,” or measures added on a year-by-year basis to the tax code because they’re considered too costly, or politically risky, to be made permanent.
But the NASCAR perks were hardly the only ones slipped into the 157-page fiscal cliff deal. Others included up to $15 million in breaks for television and movie producers who shoot their shows and movies in the U.S. …
Then there was $4 million over the next two years for folks who buy two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles, as in Segways.
And $222 million over two years for a provision that sends most federal taxes collected on rum produced in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands back to those territories — to subsidize rum production.
And, of course, $59 million in tax credits for algae farmers and $15 million in breaks for asparagus growers. …
If the fiscal cliff deal really is a first important step toward a sober discussion of spending cuts and a more sensible tax code, we just stumbled our way out of the gate.
A perk by any other name is still pork. Sooey.
— Distributed by The Associated Press