Meanwhile the Elephants Are Stampeding…


While Republicans routinely attack government interference in the marketplace, the House-passed tax bill, which Speaker Newt Gingrich labeled the “crown jewel” of his “Contract With America,” is larded with new corporate welfare programs labeled as tax breaks. Among the potential new goodies:

1. A five-year phaseout of the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT), which will cost the Treasury about $46 billion, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. A central piece of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the AMT was prompted by studies showing that dozens of America’s biggest–and most profitable–companies paid no taxes at all as a result of tax loopholes and special breaks.

The repeal of the AMT was not included in the original “Contract With America” but was inserted in the tax bill at the last moment after a strenuous lobbying campaign by oil, chemical, paper, and steel companies. The push for repeal was aided by Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas), the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who has long been an ardent foe of the tax.

2. Accelerated depreciation for new investments. This would cost the government about $89 billion over 10 years, even though it raises about $16 billion in the first five years.

3. A cut in the corporate capital gains tax, pushed heavily by timber interests such as Weyerhaeuser and International Paper Co. The House bill will cut taxes on corporate capital gains by $8.5 billion over five years.

The Gingrich tax bill is not likely to survive intact–leading GOP senators are concerned that it’s a budget-buster. But there are still likely to be some corporate goodies in the final bill. As Mother Jones goes to press, it looks as if the accelerated depreciation provision will die because of its cost, but there is a good chance of a cut in corporate capital gains. It is also likely that capital-intensive companies will have to settle for a rollback of the AMT in lieu of repeal.

In the Senate, Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) is one of several members of the Finance Committee who are going to oppose repeal of the AMT. “If we repeal the tax, the result will be revenue loss that would have to be met in spending cuts, higher marginal tax rates, or a larger deficit,” he said. “All of these results would be borne directly or indirectly by all of us.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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