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In Federal Budget Debate, Let There be no Sacred Cows; or Sacred Horses

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I love horses. But you know that there is something wrong with the federal government when horses get better treatment than the average American taxpayer.  Yes, you read that right: horses. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, trekked to the Senate floor to expose and denounce a special federal tax giveaway for thoroughbred racehorses.

This “Bluegrass Boondoggle,” Merkley notes, allows millionaire and billionaire racehorse owners to write off the cost of their horses in an accelerated manner, reducing the normal seven-year period for write-off to just three years. This one goodie for the special interests will end up costing U.S. taxpayers, over the course of the coming years, $126 million.  “Horse racing may have been called the ‘sport of kings,’ but that doesn’t mean that the owners of horses, those millionaires and billionaires owning those horses, need royal tax treatment,” the senator wisely points out.  Merkley’s also correct that saving $126 million alone won’t solve the deficit problem.

The truth is, though, that the Bluegrass Boondoggle isn’t unique. There are some 180 special tax giveaways just like it, according to former senator Alan Simpson, a conservative Republican from Wyoming. For his fellow Republicans to be protecting them now against repeal in the face of deficit-reduction is “ludicrous,” he says. “They‘re spending by any other name. They‘re really earmarks if you want to use that terrible word,” Simpson admits.

You can call them something else, too: welfare for the wealthy. Simpson, who also co-chaired President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission, found that only 10 percent of the American public, the wealthiest people in America, use these special loopholes because, he says, “they‘re the ones who can hire the best lobbyists, go to the finance committee. The little guy had no idea of what they are. It meant nothing to him,” the former senator adds. “He does the standard deduction and walks away. We found the top 400 income earners in the United States paid an average of 16 percent income tax. And it‘s absolutely absurd.”

But even if the horse credit were the only such expenditure on the books, and we could save only $126 million, even then it would be worth killing the awful deduction. Because this: You have to save that $126 million from somewhere, and if not from the horses, then it will come from children cut off from Head Start. Or senior citizens who won’t get the food stamps they need anymore; or some other program that serves us average Americans.

Lower income and middle class Americans are taxpayers, too. And we deserve to see real value and services for the taxes we must pay. We see that value in student loans, and Medicare, and home-heating assistance. I have yet to meet a horse who’s paid a dime in taxes. We deserve to continue to have access to government services more than horses are entitled to government welfare.

Simpson, apparently however, didn’t want to get caught beating up on his own party too much. In his interview the other evening, he quickly took Obama and Democrats to task for portraying Republicans as if they “don’t care about kids and old people and veterans, that is the most disruptive, disgusting thing.” I hope Sen. Simpson is right about his fellow conservatives wanting to help kids and seniors, and vets. But, I tell Republicans, you must prove it. Choose children and the unemployed and senior citizens of modest means over horses and the rich guys who own them.

Otherwise, it will be you who are put out to pasture.

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About Scott Nance

  • Clavos

    And thus, Mr. Nance launches yet another salvo in the ongoing class war that will ultimately be the undoing of America…

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Clavos, who repeatedly reminds us that he never watches Fox News and is not a Republican, can always be counted on to regurgitate the exact same talking points as Congressional Republicans and Fox News yelling heads. Maybe these ideas just arrive mysteriously in his head, like radar waves.

    However he gets them, they remain secondhand bunk.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    We’re in a budget and debt crisis/emergency/deep doo-doo [take your pick]. A bipartisan effort is called for.

    In March, the GOP called for a debt/deficit reduction formula that consisted of 85% spending cuts and 15% revenue increases [mostly or entirely closing loopholes].

    Perhaps they thought to themselves, “the Dems will never go for this.”

    Last week, the Biden bipartisan debt/defict talks had reached an agreement on around $1.5 trillion in savings, consisting of 83% spending cuts and 17% increased revenue.

    Eric Cantor, in what was surely a prearranged move, walked out on the talks in unconvincing fake ‘outrage’ that the Dems were insisting on “tax increases.”

    Now the Republican position is: 100% spending cuts, 0% revenue increases, or no deal.

    This is dumbfounding, and I hope they choke on their “strategy.”

    Compromise means both sides give, not one side throwing fake tantrums. The spending cuts will hurt people, in some cases hurt them a lot. Yet if we ask the rich, who are wealthier than ever and are being taxed at a low rate by historical standards, to contribute a bit more to help close the deficit, this is “class warfare” — “worthy of a third world dictator,” according to Marco Rubio.

    How is that a reasonable position?

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    Scott is being nice. These Republicans took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution whether they like it or not. To prevail in their hypocrisy imperils the country and should be sufficient grounds for their impeachment and removal from office for failing in their oath of office.

    Tommy

  • Baronius

    Oooh, those Republicans!

    Oooh, those Democrats!

    Over the last generation or two, the government has expanded into every industry via regulation. When the owners complained that they were being driven out of business, they were given sweetheart deals – but the regulations stood, or were even expanded. So how about for every loophole we close, we drop a regulation? That’ll free up a lot of energy and expertise that’s currently wasted on erecting hoops and jumping through them. Industries haven’t had to compete on a fair playing field in a long time. Let’s let them.

  • metaz

    they will deadlock and there will be no agreement. And no hope of one either. collision course–poetic justice.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    #5: Generalize much?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I’ve yet to see a single conservative on BC address exactly why we should not raise taxes even though Americans have a lower overall tax burden NOW – under the oh-so-socialist Obama – than we have had in the past fifty years.

    All the conservatives can think of is “our taxes are too high already”…when the exact opposite is the truth.

    But then again, isn’t that their modus operandi?

    – get rid of the minimum wage and people will magically get paid more

    – let everybody have guns and there will be magically less violence

    – don’t regulate business and business will magically regulate itself

    – charge lower taxes and the tax revenue will magically rise

    – cut the education budgets and education of our kids will magically get better educations

    – make it harder for people to vote and we’ll magically have a stronger democracy

    – don’t tell kids about sex and they’ll magically stop having sex

    – don’t tell kids about homosexuality and homosexuality will magically go away

    – don’t allow abortions and abortions will magically stop

    – don’t do anything about climate change and the problem will magically go away on its own

    – just let the bankers do what they were doing before the Great Recession and the economy will magically fix itself

    – don’t provide access to health insurance for all Americans and Americans will magically live longer and healthier lives

    Where can I find some of this Conservative Fairy Dust?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    As the economy gets better, tax revenue will go up. But to completely stonewall any adjustments like closing loopholes which might, you know, help address the deficit, is just nonsensical. It’s so obviously pure aggressive hardball politics that it’s hard to believe the Republicans think they can get away with it…again.

  • Cannonshop

    hmmm…where are those horses mostly from? Tennessee, right? state that had a powerful Senator who later became the Vice President?

    imagine that.

    Democrat, too.

    I wonder if the tax-candy post-dates Al Gore’s term in the U.S. Senate.

    Yes, Sweetheart deals like this one DEFINITELY need to go away-as soon as possible, as soon as the votes can be gotten in the Congress.

    I just don’t think they WILL go away-because I’d wager that if you track down every one of the 180 some-odd deals like this mentioned by Former Rep. Simpson, you’d find they were part of some compromise to mollify and/or gain the support of a senior sitting (or recently retired) member of either the Congress, or the Senate.

    which is why the votes won’t be gotten, forget getting it past committee, it won’t reach that far-too many powerful interests in D.C. would (rightly) see such a move as endangering their power and prestige in the districts and states they claim to represent.

    I’d go further, too-it’s not just a problem in one party, ’tis BOTH parties, I’d bet Mr. Simpson’s list, if tracked back, is a true demonstration of Bi-Partisanship and “Compromise” as it’s REALLY practiced in Sodom-on-the-Potomac.

  • Cannonshop

    Of course, my above post is merely Hypothesis, a bit of open speculation, at least, unlike Mr. Contrarian, I won’t label my suppositions on this subject as fact using unconnected hyperbole and straw-man vilification.

    Aw…hell with it, it’s more fun being a stereotypical caricature.

    Glenn, based on the public shooting-sprees of the last forty years or so, using DEMOCRAT logic, the only conclusion I can come to, is that DEMOCRATS should DEFINITELY not have access to firearms-the few school shooters, mcdonald-land-massacre artists and the attempted assassination of Rep. Giffords-the few of these shooters with any sort of relationship to a main-stream political sect, have been one-and-all DEMOCRATS.

    Not to mention the shooters who were wearing badges while making war on civilians in Pima County, Ruby Ridge, etc.

    Clearly, you people have a SEVERE violence problem in your ranks.

    Just look to such peaceful garden spots as Detroit, Washington D.C. and Chicagoland-where the criminals are armed, and the citizens are scared.

    Such lovely progress your cohorts bring with ‘em…

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Handy, we’re beyond the point where compromise has any meaning at all. You can’t compromise with cancer. You either cut it out or you die. That’s what we face here. Debt is a cancer which is destroying our nation and will drag us all down with it. It can’t be dealt with on the backs of the taxpayers or at the cost of more jobs sent overseas as the Democrats would do it. It has to be dealt with directly, by going after the giant tumor which is the federal government.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    or you can raise taxes.

    just saying.

    you can try to do it without raising taxes, but that’s pretty stupid.

  • Cannonshop

    #13 given that government increases in size even when tax revenues are declining, raising taxes won’t stop the debt problem-it may, in fact, accellerate it, given the spending habits of congresscritters and the bottomless mission-creep of Agencies.

    THAT is the problem you have to overcome before tax increases become a reasonable treatment for the disease of indebtedness-otherwise, it’s a finger-bandaid on a massive sucking chest wound-for outright increases in taxation to have any positive impact on the National Debt, you have to stop adding to the debt, you have to cut outlays, earmarks, and curb new spending. Frankly, it means you have to cut the government BACK.

    otherwise, you’re just increasing the amount that the next congress is going to borrow against-which will increase the debt.

    Prior Performance DOES indicate future performance in the case of Congress-Politicians like to say “YES” to lots and lots of spending for their districts, they don’t like to say “NO” (which only makes sense, they want to be re-elected, and pork’s an easy re-election method, ask John Murtha John McCain, or Robert Byrd.)

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Debt’s a “tumor” now. Where was all this soaring rhetoric say, 4 years ago?

    The preening self-righteousness of conservatives who suddenly believe their ideas are too perfect, too flawless to compromise — well, it’s breathtaking, that’s for sure.

    The type of deep cuts that you declare to be absolutely necessary right now will have consequences, especially coming in the midst of a slow recovery from a deep recession. People will suffer. Jobs will be lost. At least acknowledge this.

    Where does this utter certainty that they will instead bring favorable outcomes come from? The federal budget has never been cut that much that fast before. How do you know what will happen?

    You don’t.

  • GADEMA K. QUOQUOI

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    THIS WILL HELP THIS NATION, TO REDUCED ITS NATIONAL DEFICIT AS WELL.

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  • Baronius

    Yeah, Dave, where were you four years ago? Why weren’t you comparing the federal government to Cossacks? Why didn’t you question the Republican Party’s fidelity to its values? Couldn’t you at least have spoken out against the Farm Bill?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Ha. Well, if Dave [or anyone else] was calling for immediate gigantic cuts in spending, without regard to consequences, before the Obama administration, I missed that.

    PS: I [and Nancy Pelosi!] were against farm subsidies too. Some special interests are just too entrenched [and bipartisan].

    And Obama, through the Biden talks, has already offered unimaginably huge spending cuts, far larger than most liberals [including me] are comfortable with, especially in the aftermath of a recession. But because one-sixth of the plan was revenue, the GOP rejects it out of hand. Such reasonable fellows.

    PPS: The praised and reviled Paul Ryan plan would necessitate a $6 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, because it puts off most savings until later, while introducing outlandish tax cuts immediately. [And one reason the deficit is as big as it currently: the extension of the Bush tax cuts last December.]

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    When you pick out this or that particular shooting but ignore the BIG picture, that’s called “cherry picking”. And that’s what you just did.

    Are inner cities violent places? Surely – no argument there. After all, what do you expect when guns are freely available to people who are poor and can’t get jobs…except for the ones that are offered by the local drug dealers?

    Guns in the hands of poor people – think about that, Cannonshop, while you look at this list of states by homicide rates, including firearm-related homicide rates.

    If your conclusion was right, that firearms in the hands of Democrats is the problem, then the most violent states SHOULD be blue states, right? Here’s the top fifteen states, for those too lazy (or too insecure) to look at the list:

    Louisiana
    Maryland
    Mississippi
    California
    Nevada
    South Carolina
    Illinois
    Michigan
    Arizona
    New Mexico
    Georgia
    Missouri
    Arkansas
    Texas
    Tennessee

    Notice, Cannonshop, that ONLY FOUR of the states listed are blue states. Maryland is almost certainly affected by the violence in Washington D.C. California is – despite the huge populations in the LA and San Francisco metro areas – a largely rural state. Illinois is dominated by Chicago, and Michigan’s economy tanked when much of our auto industry went elsewhere…

    …the point being that in the BIG picture, with the exception of four states that are either dominated by a megalopolis or have a badly wrecked economy, the top fifteen states when it comes to firearm violence are dominated by the REDDEST of the red states.

    I say this is what happens when firearms are freely available where the people generally are poorer AND generally have a lower-quality education. Do you have a better explanation that fits the available data?

    Or do you still want to keep throwing stones inside a glass house?

  • Cannonshop

    Yeah, Glenn, I know, you’re taking money from the Bradys now, so every post you do has to be a schill for Gun-Grabbing, even when it’s irrelevant, and you can’t take a joke.

  • Realist

    Bovines and equines are only sacred to the Holy Wealthy who own them. These of the Most Highly Paid look forward to the day that the 13th Amendment is repealed and it is again legal to own humans – the most difficult pets of all.

  • tr oll

    Glenn #19 – despite being like a whole other country and all New Mexico is a blue state…something in the water must be shrinking our amygdalas out here

    Dave – re your cancer analogy: if in the process of your surgery you disrupt the function of the affected organ too much the patient will die

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    Ah. So your #11 was a joke? Hm. Seems to me that you might want to put some work into whether you want people to understand when you’re being serious, and when you’re not.

    troll –

    I won’t argue…but that still wouldn’t change things since 10 out of the top 15 states in firearm-related homicides would be red states.

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    The debt ceiling and spending cuts are two entirely different issues. The debt ceiling has to do with what we have done in the past, like engage in two wars financed by deficits. Spending cuts have to do what we will do in the future, whatever that will be. Both congressional leadership and the administration know that. The rest is just a charade for voter amusement.

    Tommy

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    And yet…
    We are not amused.

  • qwe

    Realist- you think that solely because you are poor and dont know what money looks like