FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Bailout Bill Language, Senate Version
2 pages, 451 pages; what's the difference?
Update-10/1@1500CDT: A Senate contact just emailed to correct my use of the term “tax earmarks” to describe the tax extenders in the Senate legislation.
Brian Johnson of Americans for Tax Reform has a good post below explaining why that term is a misnomer, saying in part:
Calling tax cuts “earmarks” is very unhelpful and completely wrong from a fiscal conservative perspective.
There is no such thing as a “tax earmark.” Earmarks are spending. There are appropriations earmarks. There are authorization earmarks. There are no “tax earmarks.”
To claim that there are puts tax deductions and credits (which is what we’re talking about here) on the same par as bridges to nowhere. Was the creation of HSAs a “tax earmark?” How about the home mortgage interest deduction?
One might call for lowering the rates and broadening the base, but we should not fall into the trap of equating tax cuts and spending increases. That’s how some Senate Republicans got in such massive trouble over health care last year and energy this year vis-à-vis taxes.
I’ve corrected the headers below to reflect the status of these tax breaks as such. Further, though the bill did grow by 250% between inception and the Senate producing a final version, the majority of that bulk comes from its being the combination of the Senate-approved tax extender bill mentioned below and the Wellstone mental health bill passed by the House in March.
The Senate version of the bailout legislation can be seen here. Warning: it’s a 451-page pdf file, so it might take a minute to load.
Now, the Senate has loaded the bill up with so many sweeteners for representatives on both sides of the aisle that this “emergency economic rescue” legislation is now two hundred times its original length, weighs in at almost five pounds, and contains earmarks that seem, to be generous, not the most germane to the economic crisis it is purportedly being pushed to immediately address.
A few examples of those earmarks:
New tax breaks
earmarks in Bailout bill
- Film and Television Productions (Up to $15,000,000.00; Sec. 502)
- Wooden Arrows designed for use by children (Sec. 503)
- 6 page package of earmarks for litigants in the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident, Alaska (Sec. 504)
earmark “extenders” in the bailout bill
- Virgin Island and Puerto Rican Rum (Section 308)
- American Samoa (Sec. 309)
- Mine Rescue Teams (Sec. 310)
- Mine Safety Equipment (Sec. 311)
- Domestic Production Activities in Puerto Rico (Sec. 312)
- Indian Tribes (Sec. 314, 315)
- Railroads (Sec. 316)
- Auto Racing Tracks (317)
- District of Columbia (Sec. 322)
- Wool Research (Sec. 325)
Yes, you read that last one correctly: Wool research. That particular earmark, in what is purportedly a must-pass, economy-saving bill, also caught the attention of NRO’s Mark Steyn, who wrote:
When this thing first came up, a lot of us felt like the Mister Average Joe guy at the start of a conspiracy thriller who gets a call saying the place is gonna blow, you got 30 seconds to get outta there, jump out the rear window, and get into the unmarked car with the fellows in reflector shades.
“Whu..? Why? Er, lemme think…”
“Clock’s ticking, pal.”
Now it turns out the once-in-a-lifetime save-the-global-economy emergency-measure has got time for all the business as usual. Well, which is it? I’m willing to be persuaded of the merits of a bill for “wool research”, or the merits of a billion-trillion-gazillion-dollar bill to save the planet from economic meltdown. But the same piece of legislation cannot plausibly contain both. …
If this is an emergency, hold the wool research. If it’s an emergency that’s got time for wool research, let’s chew it over for another few months.
Leave it to the Senate to take a two-page proposal and multiply its length by 250 times by adding pork and other financial sweeteners to make it both more palatable to a larger group of members, and more expensive than its original exorbitant price tag.
I’ve mentioned to some friends recently that I’m getting full-volume, full throated opposition to this bailout – from subject matter experts – screamed into one of my ears, while defense of it due to “extreme need” – also from unimpeachable experts – is being piped into my other ear at equal volume.
Personally, I’m not convinced in the least that this is absolutely necessary; however, I’m also not 100% opposed at this point. A cop-out? Sure, call it that. Either, way, I’m just sticking to reporting on this one. The analysis is up to you.